Is sleep apnea a disability? If you suffer from this common form of sleep-disordered breathing, you might wonder if it is. It affects your ability to get restful sleep, increasing your risks for a variety of health and safety issues. But is it a disability?
People with sleep apnea have a hard time breathing or stop breathing for several seconds during sleep. These episodes happen at least 5 times an hour. In the most extreme cases these episodes can last for several minutes and occur a few hundred times a night.
There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). With OSA the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. This partial or complete blockage prevents air from moving through the lungs.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is less common. CSA is the result of the brain failing to send proper signals to the muscles of the chest involved in breathing. The brain ‘forgets’ to breathe for several seconds to several minutes at a time.
Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
Someone suffering from sleep apnea may experience the following symptoms:
Observable periods where breathing stops and starts
Choking or gasping during sleep
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Difficulty thinking or concentrating
Changes in mood, especially depression or irritability
High blood pressure
You may not experience all these symptoms. Some sufferers only experience a handful of symptoms. Because many of these symptoms occur during sleep, many are not aware they have the condition. Others may write off their symptoms as something else. Researchers estimate that only approximately 20% of cases are ever diagnosed. Of those cases, most do not seek a diagnosis on their own. A diagnosis of SA is most common after a major adverse health event or after a partner complains.
Complications Of Sleep Apnea
Even mild cases of sleep apnea can cause a variety of health and safety issues. Left untreated sleep apnea contributes to the development of the following conditions:
High blood pressure, especially drug-resistant
Many of these conditions also contribute to worsening symptoms of sleep apnea. But, these health issues are not all that make sleep apnea such a dangerous condition. Sleep apnea makes it impossible to get restful sleep. Sufferers report falling asleep many times throughout the day. OSA doubles your risk of workplace accidents. The risk is even higher if your job requires you to do a lot of driving, such as long haul trucking and public transport. Studies show mild to moderate sleep apnea doubles your risk of traffic accidents. For individuals with moderate to severe sleep apnea the risk is 15 times greater. Sleep apnea is the most important preventable cause of traffic and workplace accidents.
Is Sleep Apnea A Disability?
Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) no longer lists sleep apnea as a disability. But, that doesn’t mean that you won’t qualify. Sleep apnea contributes to a wide range of physical and mental health issues that are recognized as disabilities.
For example, sleep apnea increases your risk of lung problems like chronic pulmonary hypertension. The Disability Evaluation Under Social Security has a section for respiratory problems. Chronic pulmonary hypertension is listing 3.09. Sleep apnea also contributes to many risk factors for chronic or congestive heart failure. These conditions are included under listing 4.02. There is a long list of criteria you must meet to qualify for disability under those diagnoses. Listing 12.02 covers ‘organic mental disorders’. As defined by the SSA:
Organic Mental Disorders, also referred to as chronic Organic Brain Syndromes, are afflictions of the brain that can lead to severe mental or behavioral problems. They may be permanent or temporary, and can be either hereditary or caused by injury, disease, or a structural or systemic defect in body chemistry or hormones. Organic Mental Disorders do not include disorders that result from substance abuse, nor do they include psychiatric disorders.
This definition covers many of the mental health issues that can result from chronic sleep apnea.
What If I Don’t Qualify?
Not everyone will qualify based on the criteria mentioned above. However, you may qualify based on your Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC. An RFC assessment determines what type of work you are still able to perform in spite of the limitations imposed by your condition. The SSA will look at how your symptoms and other conditions affect your job performance. For example, if you have heart problems as a result of your sleep apnea, you should not be lifting heavy objects. If you struggle with excessive daytime sleepiness, you should not be operating heavy machinery. The SSA may assess your mental RFC too if you have difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, or do not work well with others. You will qualify for benefits if your symptoms are severe enough that you are unable to work.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Not everyone with sleep apnea will qualify for disability whether through related diagnoses or their RFC assessment. But the good news is that sleep apnea is highly treatable. Long term solutions involve controlling risk factors that can worsen your symptoms. This might include losing weight or starting medication to control your diabetes or high blood pressure. But getting your underlying conditions under control will take time. You need a good night’s rest, and soon. The best ways to achieve quick relief from your symptoms is to begin sleep apnea therapy. Therapy typically includes the use of a CPAP or similar machine, an oral appliance, or both.
A CPAP is a machine that prevents airway obstruction by creating positive pressure in the airway. The masks required to create a seal around the nose and mouth can be heavy. Many patients have a hard time adjusting to sleeping with the mask on. Patients report they don’t wear it as often as they should.
An oral device fits in the mouth much like an athletic mouthguard. It prevents airway obstruction by shifting the jaw and tongue forward. This helps to eliminate soft palate collapse. A custom oral appliances will form to fit the size and shape of your mouth, providing comfortable, lightweight sleep apnea relief. At Sleep Better Columbus we know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. With the help of Dr. Mark Levy, we’ll find you just the right form and fit for your custom oral appliance. Our patients report a far better compliance rate with their custom oral appliance. And better compliance means better sleep.
Want to know if sleep apnea is a disability? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for more information.
A new study conducted by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggests that irregular sleep patterns may double your risk of heart disease. “Our study indicates that healthy sleep isn’t just about quantity but also about variability, and that this can have an important effect on heart health,” says Huang, thelead author on the study.
What Is Heart Disease?
Heart disease describes conditions that affect how the heart functions. It can refer to heart defects or conditions that cause irregular heart beats. These diseases can also affect the tissues surrounding the heart, such as the blood vessels and arteries. Heart disease includes the following conditions:
Coronary Artery Disease
Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
Mitral Valve Prolapse
According to theCenter for Disease Control, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.” This translates into heart disease being the leading cause in 1 of every 4 deaths in the US.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are major risk factors for heart disease. According to theCDC, roughly half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these risk factors. Other health issues and lifestyle choices also increase your risk. These factors for heart disease include:
Age – Age increases your risk of a variety of health problems. As we age the tissues of the heart and arteries thicken, become weak, or simply break down over time.
Sex – Men are at increased risk of developing heart disease. Doctors believe this is due to where men carry most of their weight. A woman’s risk of heart disease increases after menopause.
Family History – Your genes may predispose you to developing certain types of heart disease. Your risk may be especially high if a parent developed heart disease at an earlier age than normal.
Diet – Diets high in fats, sugar, salt, and cholesterol can contribute to heart disease.
Diabetes – Diabetes shares many of the same risk factors as heart disease.
Obesity – Excessive weight gain worsens many of the other risk factors for heart disease.
Physical Inactivity – Less active, less fit individuals are more likely to develop high blood pressure. They are also more likely to develop diabetes and become obese.
Stress – Stress damages your arteries and worsens other risk factors.
These risk factors are well documented by decades of studies and research. However, one major risk factor that has gone largely unresearched until now is sleep. “When we talk about interventions to prevent heart attacks and stroke, we focus on diet and exercise,” saysHuang. “Even when we talk about sleep, we tend to focus on duration – how many hours a person sleeps each night – but not on sleep irregularity and the impact of going to bed at different times or sleeping different amounts from night to night.”
What we have learned from these decades of sleep studies is that sleep duration is very much a ‘Goldilocks’ zone. If you are getting too much or too little, your health outcomes decline. But when your amount of sleep is ‘just right’ health outcomes improve. These studies show that too much sleep has many of the same negative effects as too little sleep. And both contribute dramatically to many of the same risk factors for heart disease. According to aGallup poll, the typical American adult gets less than 7 hours of sleep a night. While individual sleep needs may vary slightly, most people perform best on 8 hours of sleep a night. But if the duration of sleep was the only factor, then those who get 8 hours each night should have a lower risk, right? The study found that it may not be that simple.
TheBrigham and Women’s Hospital study found that variation in bedtime and sleep duration had a major impact on health outcomes. The data showed those whose bed time varied by 90 minutes or more, and whose sleep duration varied by 2 or more hours a night were at the greatest risk. This group was “more likely to develop metabolic disorders such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.” As a result, this group also reported nearly double the number of heart problems and cardiovascular events.
How Do I Reduce My Risks?
Huangstates that “Sleep regularity is a modifiable behavior. In the future, we’d like to explore whether changing one’s sleep patterns by going to bed consistently each night may reduce a person’s risk of future cardiovascular events.” There are many things you can do to ensure a more consistent bedtime, including the following:
Have a set bedtime
Don’t wait to feel sleepy before getting ready for bed
Turn off your phone, computer, and TV an hour before bed
Have a nightly routine
Altering your habits to ensure a consistent bedtime and sleep duration should help reduce your risks.
Could Sleep Apnea Be To Blame?
The study did not address the causes of irregular sleep patterns, but they hypothesized that frequent waking was a factor. As many as 70 million US adults suffer from a some form of sleep disorder. The most common of which is Sleep Apnea.
Around 1 in 5 adults suffer from mild symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, with 1 in 15 having moderate to severe symptoms. Untreated, sleep apnea contributes to many of the same risk factors for heart disease. Unfortunately, most people who have the condition are unaware that they do. Researchers estimate that only about 20% of cases are ever diagnosed. If you have many of the same risk factors for heart disease or suspect you may not be getting restful sleep, speak with your doctor about sleep apnea.
Thankfully, sleep apnea is easy to treat. The usual, go-to treatment is to use a CPAP machine. With Obstructive Sleep Apnea the airway becomes partially or completely obstructed, preventing the movement of air through the lungs. The most common cause of obstruction is soft palate collapse. The soft tissues of the throat relax too much, blocking the airway. A CPAP works by pumping pressurized air into the airway to prevent airway collapse. However, CPAP masks are large, heavy, and often uncomfortable. As a result, patients often report low compliance with their prescribedsleep apnea therapy.
An equally effective, and less restrictive option is an oral appliance. An oral appliance is a device designed to fit in the mouth. It shifts the lower jaw forward to prevent soft palate collapse. At Sleep Better Columbus we know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. And an uncomfortable heavy mask is not the best solution for most patients. We specialize in custom fitted oral appliances. We ensure you get the best fit for a better night’s sleep.
Sleep apnea is the enemy of a good night’s rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have it. People are waking up exhausted, falling asleep at work or at the wheel, and at risk for high blood pressure (or worse). Fortunately, it is possible to get a good night’s sleep with sleep apnea. We’re going to discuss some of the ways you can do that.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that prevents people from breathing normally at night. Breath is typically interrupted, meaning you could go around 10 seconds without breathing before you start again. This is usually due to the muscles in the throat contracting when they shouldn’t. The fragmented breathing causes a restless night’s sleep.
Why Should I Treat my Sleep Apnea?
If sleep apnea goes untreated, a lot of things can go wrong. The body needs sleep. Sleep helps with the clearing of toxins, the ability to concentrate, and the ability to fight off infections. Here are a few things that sleep apnea can cause if it goes untreated:
High blood pressure
Congestive heart failure
Knowing this, it’s probably best to look at treatment options as soon as possible. The good news is that there are many, many treatment options. As mentioned earlier, sleep apnea is common. Scientists have worked long and hard at finding ways for people to live with this and for people to be cured from this. Many treatments will allow you to lead a perfectly normally life with sleep apnea.
What Kind of Treatment Should I Start With?
If you’ve been properly diagnosed with sleep apnea by a professional (don’t diagnose yourself!) it’s time to start looking at ways to live with this. Any health professional will recommend two things to start with: proper diet and exercise.
In order for you to heal from anything, your body needs to be strong enough to fight it off. It won’t be able to do that if it isn’t being treated properly. A diet low in saturated fats and high in whole grains will aid with weight loss. Getting healthy will also help with your energy levels and your ability to fight sleep apnea. Obesity is not only a symptom of sleep apnea – it’s a cause.
Alongside proper diet and exercise, oral appliances are largely popular in the sleep apnea community. Let’s take some time to discuss those.
What is a CPAP?
The CPAP is a device constructed to aid in your air flow while you’re sleeping. It is plugged into a wall. You use it by placing a mask over your nose and mouth before bed each night. While you’re sleeping, it works to gently blow air through your nose and mouth, giving you a steady stream of oxygen while you sleep. It has helped millions of people in managing their sleep apnea. If used properly, the CPAP machine should allow you to wake up feeling refreshed. It should help in eliminating all symptoms of sleep apnea.
Unfortunately, many people don’t use it properly. It can be difficult to place the mask in the “perfect” position, and even if you do, it can slip around if you’re an aggressive sleeper. There are other downsides to using a CPAP. For example, it can be hard on your partner. The machine can be quite noisy, disrupting the sleep of the people around you. The CPAP isn’t very “romantic”, either. Forget leaning over to kiss your partner. They’d be met with a large plastic mask in their face. Another thing about the CPAP is that it isn’t always tolerated very well. It can rub against sensitive skin causing eczema outbreaks, or it can be too uncomfortable to sleep with. This is why the CPAP isn’t always the first thing that is recommended in the treatment of sleep apnea.
What are Alternative Oral Appliances?
Thankfully, there are other options for handling sleep apnea. One of the most popular solutions is the use of oral appliances other than the CPAP. Oftentimes, sleep apnea can be caused by a misaligned jaw, a small jaw, small upper airways, or a recessed chin. Simple oral appliances can help people get a good night’s sleep and enough oxygen.
Some of the most common oral appliances are mouth guards. Mouth guards can be custom-fitted to be comfortable. Good oral appliances are usually the ones that you don’t notice while you’re sleeping. The only types of oral appliances that should be used are the ones that are created by dentists. It is always best to know where your appliances are coming from. Finding a place like Sleep Better Columbus with a caring and educated staff is your best bet. It is also important that all of the devices you choose to use are registered with the FDA. As long as you follow these guidelines, you can’t go wrong.
After trying non-invasive approaches like mouth guards, you may see a significant decrease or elimination in your sleep apnea symptoms. This is the goal. Don’t settle for less than that. Remember that millions of people around the world suffer from sleep apnea, and they lead perfectly normal lives. As long as you’re diligent about wearing your mouth pieces and getting them from a qualified source, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be symptom-free.
The Importance of Seeing a Specialist
Remember that as you’re going into this looking for treatment, you should always be looking to professionals for advice. Trying to fix it yourself (or even diagnosing yourself) won’t guarantee real help. It’s also best to only take sleep apnea tests administered by professionals rather than buying yourself one online (from an unreliable source). Most medical care professionals will either recommend an at-home sleep apnea test or they’ll ask you to spend the night being monitored in a medical facility. Both types of tests are perfectly safe and pain-free.
Call Better Sleep Columbus at (614) 362-7292 to learn how to sleep with sleep apnea and discuss your options with a qualified professional.
Snoring is extremely common among adults. Half of people snore at least some point in their lives. Statistics show that around 25% of people snore habitually. Maybe you have a partner that’s keeping you up at night, or maybe you snore and you don’t even know it! Snoring is so common that people often overlook the fact that it’s not a healthy sign. Despite popular belief, snoring doesn’t mean you’re sleeping deeply. It is often a sign of a problem.
There are several sleep conditions associated with snoring, but one of the biggest is a condition called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is categorized as a sleep disorder, and it involves the throat. When a person has sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat don’t do a great job at keep the airway open. This doesn’t make for the best night’s sleep. Oftentimes, a person will stop breathing for up to 10 seconds while the throat is closing up. This leads to issues with blood pressure and it leads to a terrible night’s sleep. If you snore and you wake up exhausted every morning, you might have it.
If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, it’s good to be seen for it. The sooner you can get it diagnosed, the sooner you can work on eliminating it. If you are diagnosed, it’s no time to panic. The National Sleep Foundation says that more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea – and that isn’t even including all of the other countries! It is extremely common. And the good news? It is completely curable.
Sleep apnea can occur for several reasons in many different types of people. No one is excluded from getting sleep apnea, but certain groups of people do have a higher risk of getting it. Certain risk factors for sleep apnea include (but are not limited to):
Small upper airways
A small jaw
A recessed chin
Excessive alcohol use
Age (40 and over)
Ethnicity (Hispanics, African-Americans, and Pacific Islanders have a higher risk)
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
As we’ve discussed, snoring is usually the tell-tale symptom of sleep apnea. But did you know that there are other symptoms to look out for? Some of these symptoms include:
High blood pressure
Falling asleep anywhere (like at work!)
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Once you are properly diagnosed (make sure you see a professional – don’t diagnose yourself!) it is time to take action. Sleep apnea doesn’t go away on its own. Dietary changes or medical interventions are needed if you want more energy and better sleep. When you’re presented with your options, it can be overwhelming. Every medical professional will have their own opinion, and it can be difficult to choose what you want your next steps to be. First, let’s take a look at the options that will be presented to you.
The most common change you will be asked to make is with your lifestyle. People often have sleep apnea due to an unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise. After a certain age, losing weight becomes much more difficult. There are quite a few options to look at when trying to lose weight. If you haven’t started with your diet and mobility, you will be asked to do that first.
Sleep apnea diets can be a large change for some people. Certain foods need to be avoided, and other foods need to be consumed much more frequently. A diet high that’s high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is essential, and the avoidance of heavy, greasy foods is also highly recommended. Alcohol needs to be completely cut out of your diet if you want to lose weight and feel healthy. Foods high in saturated fats often lead to obesity, so you’ll need to cut out things like red meat and fast food. Quitting smoking will also come highly recommended.
You’ll also be asked to exercise at least 30 minutes per day. This can be anything from taking a walk each day to doing high-intensity cardio. You should always start small, especially if you’ve been sedentary. Nothing deters an exercise routine like going “all in” immediately, only to disappoint yourself and quit. Start small and gradually increase your cardio at your own pace until you’re comfortable.
If you have given diet and exercise a real try but it isn’t curing your sleep apnea, other measures will be taken.
CPAP machines are extremely popular for the sleep apnea population. It’s essentially a mask that you wear at bedtime every single night. It covers your nose and mouth and gently pushes air through a tube so that you get a steady source of oxygen throughout the night. These work wonderfully for some people. For others, they’re a great challenge. For one thing, they’re not exactly easy on your partner. They’re often quite loud. They’re also uncomfortable and they limit your sleeping positions. People with sensitive skin may also have problems with a CPAP, as it can be aggressive around the nose and mouth area.
Oral appliances are often preferable to the CPAP because they’re less invasive. Dental devices can help with the positioning of your jaw when you’re sleeping, allowing more air to flow through your throat. These kinds of options can be wonderful for people who don’t tolerate the CPAP or who don’t want to try the CPAP. Not only are they less invasive, they’re also much easier to use. Oral appliances like the ones at Sleep Better Columbus (614-362-7292) could greatly reduce or eliminate the symptoms of sleep apnea and improve the quality of your life.
You’ll certainly have your pick when it comes to sleep apnea interventions. You’re not going to have to try anything you’re uncomfortable with. Sleep apnea can be a little scary. The good news is that with proper care, you’ll be just fine.
If you snore, or have a partner who has snoring issues, then you are aware of the sleepless nights that can occur as a result. Snoring isn’t much of a problem if it only happens on occasion, but it can be a warning sign of a more serious condition, so if it happens on a frequent basis, it’s probably a good idea to get to the root of the problem.
What Causes Snoring in the First Place?
Basically, snoring occurs when there is a blockage of air through the mouth and nose. While it can occur in any age and gender, it tends to occur more in men and people who are overweight. There are many different underlying causes of snoring, some that also affect one’s ability to breathe properly during sleep. When this occurs, snoring can go from a mild annoyance to a serious issue than can be quite debilitating. Below are a few of the underlying reasons that snoring issues might occur.
Sleeping position: The position in which one sleeps can also contribute to snoring. For instance, sleeping on the back is commonly associated with snoring.
Alcohol or drugs: Using alcohol or drugs, such as muscle relaxers, can also cause snoring, by making the muscles in the throat and tongue relax too much.
Blocked nasal airway: There are several reasons that nasal airways might be blocked. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a cold or allergy. Other times, it could be something like a deviated septum or nasal polyps.
Long uvula or soft palate: The dangling tissue in the back of the mouth, called the uvula, or a long soft palate can narrow the passageway from the nose to the throat. When this happens, breathing can cause them to vibrate against each other and the airway can become blocked.
Obstructive sleep apnea: This can be caused by several different things, but often occurs when soft muscle tissues relax during sleep. Frequently, this is associated with being overweight, but is not always the case.
What Can I Do About My Snoring Issues?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the snoring issues. For instance, sometimes lifestyle changes can help. Doctors may suggest that patients try sleeping in a different position or reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, especially at night. If a cold or allergy is the culprit, medication might be prescribed. Sometimes, even surgery might be an option, especially if an elongated uvula or soft palate is the culprit. Of course, if the cause is sleep apnea, many other options might be considered, from a CPAP machine to an oral appliance that might be prescribed and fitted by your dentist.
Is Snoring Really That Serious?
The short answer is yes! Snoring may seem like a minor nuisance, but it can be quite serious indeed. A minor cold or allergy will pass, but if the snorer has something like sleep apnea as the underlying cause of their snoring issues, it can present many debilitating health concerns that must be addressed.
In severe cases, obstructive sleep apnea can cause a person to stop breathing up to hundreds of times per night. Episodes can last from a few seconds to a minute or longer, usually accompanied by choking, gasping, and, of course, snoring. As mentioned previously, this can contribute to many serious health concerns, including decreased cardiovascular health, increased stress hormones, and hypertension. It can also contribute to weight gain, poor concentration, and diabetes. A good night’s sleep is fundamental to good health!
What About Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Devices?
CPAP devices are one of the more common treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. It works by blowing pressurized air through a tube that connects at one end to a machine. The other end of the tube is connected to a mask worn by the patient. The pressurized air keeps the airway open during sleep. While this is generally an effective option, not everyone can tolerate CPAP or afford it, especially if insurance doesn’t cover it.
Is Oral Appliance Therapy an Option?
Another option to treat snoring issues is oral appliance therapy. This is especially useful for those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. The user wears the oral appliance during sleep. It’s somewhat similar to a sports mouth guard used. They work by supporting the jaw in a forward position and keeping the airway open during sleep. More and more people are giving oral appliance therapy a try. More insurance companies are covering the treatment option and it is less costly then CPAP. It is also less risky than surgery and requires no recovery time.
How Do I Know if Oral Appliance Therapy is Right for Me?
To determine if oral appliance therapy is the right treatment option for your snoring issues, the first step is to consult with a dentist specializing in the treatment of sleep apnea. You can ask your family dentist or even your physician for a referral if you don’t already know of a specialist in your area. You might also want to check with your insurance company to see if this visit will be covered and if you need a referral from your physician first.
When you see the specialist, they will complete a full evaluation to determine if an oral appliance will work for your needs. If they believe this type of treatment is appropriate, they will make sure your mouth and joints are healthy enough to support an oral appliance and will determine which type of appliance will best solve your snoring issues.
Seek Help for Your Snoring Issues
Good sleep is one of the fundamental components of good health. If you are experiencing snoring issues, consider investigating treatment options right away. If you’d like to learn more about using an oral appliance to treat your snoring issues, please contact Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 today. Our experienced staff can provide a full evaluation as well as all the information you will need to make the best decision for your treatment needs.
Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 to learn more about treating your snoring issues with oral appliances.