What Are The Signs Of Sleep Apnea?

What Are The Signs Of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops and starts during sleep. It is a condition that affects as many as 100 million people world wide. Sleep apnea causes a variety of potentially serious health issues and side effects. But the most startling thing about sleep apnea is most sufferers don’t actually know they have it. At least not until it has begun to take a serious toll on their health. You might wonder how that is possible. How could someone stop and start breathing several times a night and not even know? What are the signs of sleep apnea? How do we so often miss these signs?

What is Sleep Apnea?

Before we get into the signs of sleep apnea, let’s talk a little bit about what it is. An apnea is a period in which breathing stops unexpectedly, especially during sleep. These apneas can last anywhere from 5 seconds to several minutes at a time. With mild to moderate sleep apnea a person may stop breathing anywhere from 5 to 30 times an hour during sleep. In the most extreme cases these pauses may occur several hundred times a night.
There are two main types of sleep apnea.
The most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. With this type, the brain continues sending messages to the muscles of the chest and diaphragm to keep breathing. However, the airway becomes partially or completely blocked. The heart, lungs, and muscles of the chest work harder to try to keep blood and oxygen moving through the body. When these efforts to clear the blockage fail, blood oxygen levels begin to drop. If normal breathing does not resume, the patient will begin to suffocate. This triggers a gasp reflex, causing you to wake suddenly and begin breathing again.
The other main type of sleep apnea is Central Sleep Apnea. With Central Sleep Apnea the brain fails to properly signal the body to continue breathing. Unlike Obstructive Sleep Apnea, with CSA all breath functions stop. The muscles of the chest and diaphragm do not continue trying to move air through the lungs. Normal breathing resumes only after blood oxygen levels drop low enough, triggering you to wake up.

Signs and Symptoms

We’ve talked a little about what sleep apnea is, but what does it look like? What do sufferers experience?
If you have ever lived with someone who snored, you are probably already familiar with the most common signs of sleep apnea. While not all snorers have sleep apnea – and not all people with sleep apnea snore – it is a classic symptom of the condition. With Obstructive Sleep Apnea the airway becomes partially or completely blocked.
As you struggle to clear the obstruction, the movement of air past the blockage causes these soft tissues to vibrate. The result is a loud, chain-saw like snore interrupted by observable periods where breathing stops. These apneas are usually accompanied by a fit of gasping or choking before normal breathing resumes. The sufferers themselves are usually completely unaware of these particular symptoms. Depending on how violent their fits of choking or gasping are, they may not even realize how often they wake up.

Because they occur during sleep, someone with sleep apnea is usually only aware of the lingering side effects. These might include waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, chest pain, or morning headache. These symptoms are easily misinterpreted as other issues and often go misdiagnosed. Chest pain might result from your sleeping posture, lifestyle, or other health issues. A morning headache might get ignored as just needing your morning cup of coffee. Dry mouth could be the result of dehydration, sleeping with your mouth open, or a side effect from medication.

Other symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, mood changes, and decreased libido. Most of those symptoms, especially in the absence of loud snoring, are very often misdiagnosed as depression. The nighttime sweating is easily ignored as preferring a cooler sleep environment. Sleep apnea also causes high blood pressure. However, high blood pressure is common among people who do not suffer from sleep apnea. So high blood pressure on its own is not a major red flag.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

So how do so many people with sleep apnea go un- or misdiagnosed? As discussed, many of the symptoms are easily explained away by other complaints. Imagine a patient comes in to see their doctor. They complain of poor sleep, low moods, and difficulty focusing. Because they live alone, they are not aware of their loud snoring. To the doctor, this presents as a fairly typical case of depression. It’s not until they develop or complain of other common symptoms that the cause becomes clear, if ever.

In fact, most people who do finally seek medical advice don’t actually think there is anything wrong. They only speak to their doctor because their loved one is losing sleep too, due to their loud snoring. Individuals who live alone or who do not snore may go months or even years before they see a doctor.

Who Suffers From Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea affects as many as 70 million US adults. The condition is most common among men and people over the age of 60. But, women and children are also affected. Being overweight, diabetic, or a smoker also increases your risk of developing sleep apnea. Other risk factors include asthma, narrow airway, family history, illness, and hypertension.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Thankfully, sleep apnea is easy to treat. Reducing your risks and contributing factors are a great long term goal. Ways to reduce your risks and improve your symptoms include:
  • Weight Control
  • Making sure underlying conditions are well controlled
  • Change sleeping positions
  • Use a humidifier
  • Quit smoking

But in the meantime, you need to get some restful sleep. The frequent waking has left you exhausted and falling asleep at work. You need relief now. So what can you do? A CPAP machine is usually the go-to answer for most sleep apnea patients. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It’s a mask that fits over the nose and mouth to pressurize your airway, preventing it from collapsing during sleep. These masks are large and usually fairly heavy. Many patients have difficulty falling or staying asleep while wearing it.

As a result, many patients do not wear their CPAP as often as they should to see relief. Thankfully, there are other options. An alternative, and equally effective option is to use an oral appliance. An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth to maintain an open airway during sleep. It does this by shifting the lower jaw forward to prevent soft palate collapse. Oral appliances come in generic versions or can be custom designed to fit your mouth. With a custom fit appliance, patients report much higher compliance with their prescribed sleep apnea therapy. And better compliance means better sleep.

At Sleep Better Columbus we pride ourselves on providing high quality custom fitted oral appliances. With Dr. Mark Levy’s extensive experience and education, you can rest assured you’re getting the best possible care.

What are the signs of sleep apnea? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for more information.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Lung Problems?

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Lung Problems?

Sleep apnea can lead to many other health issues. Some of these health problems can cause sleep apnea, and others result from it. Interestingly, many of these health conditions involve the heart and lungs. So it might have you wondering: Can sleep apnea cause lung problems?
It’s true that sleep apnea affects your breathing. These apneas, or periods when breathing stops and starts, might make you think it is a lung disease. According to the American Lung Association, the term lung disease refers to any disorder affecting the lungs. This includes disorders like asthma, COPD, cancer, influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and many others. While sleep apnea can have serious consequences for lung health, the primary function of the condition is sleep related.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Before we look at how it affects your lung health, let’s look at what sleep apnea is.

Apnea is a ‘temporary cessation of breathing, especially during sleep’. Based on the definition, referring to the condition as ‘sleep apnea’ may seem redundant. But because apneas can occur at other times, it is an important distinction to make.

With sleep apnea, breathing stops and starts at least 5 times an hour, but can pause as many as several hundred times a night. These pauses can last anywhere from 5 seconds to several minutes at a time. When this happens, blood oxygen levels drop and trigger you to wake up. Frequent sleep disruptions causes a variety of side effects. These side effects may include:

  • Irritability
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Driving accidents
  • Depression

There are a few types of sleep apnea but the most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). With OSA these apnea events occur when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. The blockage may be due to several different factors.

Common causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea are:

  • Relaxation of the neck and throat muscles, causing the soft palate to collapse
  • Tongue balling up in the back of the throat
  • Fatty deposits in the tongue or neck restrict the airway
  • Narrow airway

With OSA the brain continues sending messages to the body to breathe. The muscles of the chest and diaphragm work even harder to breathe but are not able to completely clear the blockage. This results in the loud snoring, choking, or gasping during sleep that is common for people with the condition.

With lung diseases the primary function of the disorder begins in the lungs. But, in sleep apnea the issue starts in the brain or in the airway itself and occurs only during sleep. As a result, it is most accurate to refer to sleep apnea as a form of sleep-disordered breathing.

Can Sleep Apnea Cause Lung Problems?

While classified as a sleep disorder, sleep apnea does lead to or worsen lung problems.

Research published in BMC Pulmonary Medicine found that patients with OSA had increased lung elasticity recoil pressure. The elastic quality of lung tissues is what allows them to expand and contract when you breathe. With increased lung elasticity recoil pressure the lungs snap back too forcefully. This creates a vacuum effect that contributes to airway collapse in OSA. The resulting reduction in lung volume increases the risk or worsens the symptoms of some very serious lung problems.

Lung problems that are common in patients with sleep apnea include:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Asthma

COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that make breathing difficult. This difficulty arises from clogged or narrow airways. It is usually the result of inflammation in the internal structures or damage to the air sacs in the lungs. This damage is typically caused by smoking and air pollutants.

A review in the journal Lung found that up to 66% of COPD sufferers also suffer from sleep apnea. As where only around 20% of patients with sleep apnea also have COPD. Doctors refer to this as “overlap syndrome”. Patients with COPD have an increased risk of heart attack. When paired with sleep apnea it will lead to high blood pressure, arrhythmia, heart failure, and stroke if left untreated. Unfortunately there is no cure for COPD and the condition tends to worsen over time. However, symptoms do improve with treatment and the use of sleep apnea therapy.

Pulmonary Hypertension

Patients with sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing pulmonary hypertension (PH). Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure. It causes increased blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs and in the right side of the heart. Patients with pulmonary hypertension experience shortness of breath, dizziness, and chest pressure. How exactly sleep apnea causes pulmonary hypertension remains controversial. However, we know that periods of low blood oxygen (hypoxia) cause the heart to work harder to continue supplying oxygen to the body. With sleep apnea these periods of hypoxia happen more frequently, sometimes several hundred times a night. Studies show that as many as 82% of patients with PH have some form of sleep apnea. Like COPD, pulmonary hypertension worsens over time. Similarly, patients can reduce the severity of their symptoms and improve quality of life with treatment.

Asthma

Asthma is a condition in which a person’s airways are highly sensitive. When exposed to a trigger the airway becomes inflamed and swollen, restricting the flow of air through the lungs. This irritation also causes the lungs to secrete more mucus, making it even harder to breathe. Asthma and sleep apnea are both common conditions and seem to play off each other. In the BCM Pulmonary Medicine review researchers found a synergistic link between the two conditions. Subjects with OSA had a narrower airway on average, as did subjects who only had asthma. Airway diameter was even smaller in subjects who had both. They found that 49% of subjects with difficult-to-treat asthma also suffered from mild to moderate OSA. The data also showed a direct link between how intense their OSA was and the severity of their asthma symptoms. When asthma is well controlled, OSA symptoms also decrease.

Reduce the Risk of Your Apnea and Lung Problems 

The good news is that sleep apnea is easy to treat. Patients see improvement in their quality of life soon after beginning sleep apnea therapy. At Sleep Better Columbus we know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. CPAP machines are a great option but we know they can be uncomfortable and make sleeping difficult. We provide high quality, custom fitted oral appliances to keep your airway clear. An oral appliance shifts the lower jaw forward. This prevents soft palate collapse and keeps the tongue from balling up at the back of the throat. Because our oral appliances are lightweight and custom fitted, patients have an easier time adjusting. This results in better compliance and faster relief. Reducing your symptoms will improve your quality of life and reduce your risks of lung problems.

Do you wonder if sleep apnea can cause lung problems? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for more information.

What Triggers Sleep Apnea

What Triggers Sleep Apnea

What Triggers Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious condition in which breathing stops and starts during sleep. These pauses in breathing last for at least 10 seconds at a time and occur no less than 5 times an hour. These pauses cause blood oxygen levels to drop, triggering periods of wakefulness. Unfortunately, symptoms of sleep apnea are easily missed or often ignored. Many patients are not aware of their condition until it has already taken a serious toll on their health. But what triggers sleep apnea?

Types of Sleep Apnea

Before we can dive into what triggers sleep apnea (SA), let’s take a look at the different types. There are two main types:
  • Central
  • Obstructive

With central sleep apnea (CSA) the wiring in the brain has become faulty. The brain fails to properly send signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, in CSA all breathing functions stop. It is not until oxygen levels drop enough that the brain is able to trigger you to wake up abruptly. This form of sleep apnea is less common.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is by far the most common. It is the result of the soft tissues of the mouth and throat relaxing too much during sleep. These structures collapse inward, either partially or completely blocking the airway. During an episode of OSA the brain continues sending signals to breathe. With a partial obstruction the added effort causes the soft tissues to vibrate. This results in the loud, chainsaw-like snoring associated with OSA. A complete obstruction results in observable periods where breathing stops. Either type of episode usually ends with a fit of gasping or choking before normal breathing resumes.

While it is possible to have both forms of SA, it is not as common. Doctors refer to this as complex sleep apnea. Patients will have alternating periods of apnea due either to failed signals or obstruction.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

There are many causes and contributing factors in sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is the result of the brain failing to signal the muscles of the chest to breathe. Conditions that reduce blood oxygen levels or impair the function of the central nervous system can increase your risk. Factors that increase the risk of CSA include:
  • Age – As you age your risk of developing CSA increases. The groups most at risk are individuals over the age of 45 are at the greatest risk.
  • Biological Sex – CSA is more common among men than it is among women.
  • Heart Health – Heart health can have a tremendous impact on your risk factors. Conditions such as congestive heart failure or an irregular heartbeat are significant risk factors for CSA.
  • Medications – Certain medications, particularly sedatives, opioids, and methadone can increase your risk.
  • Stroke – Around 75% of patients who need physical therapy after a stroke are also diagnosed with sleep-disordered breathing. CSA is the most common diagnosis.
  • Other Brain Abnormalities – Brain tumors and lesions on the brain stem can impair its ability to properly relay messages to the body.
  • CPAP Use – Studies show that patients who use a CPAP machine to create positive pressure in their airway are more likely to develop CSA. Continued use of a CPAP often resolves this issue.

Obstructive sleep apnea is most greatly influenced by physical factors. Factors that increase your risk of developing OSA include:

  • Weight – Obesity and excessive weight greatly increases the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits in the tongue and neck can obstruct breathing.
  • Narrow Airway – Some people naturally have a narrow airway. Others may have enlarged tonsils or adenoids. While this can be an issue in adults, it is often identified and addressed in childhood. Having a thick neck can also cause a narrowing of the airway.
  • Biological Sex – As with CSA, obstructive sleep apnea is more common in men than in women. Men are as much as 3 times more likely to develop the condition. Men tend to put on more weight in their midsection than women. Increased abdominal circumference is directly linked to OSA. Women have an increased risk of OSA if they are overweight or are post-menopause.
  • Age – OSA is more common in adults over the age of 40.
  • Family History – Many risk factors for OSA are hereditary.
  • Substance and Drug Use – Alcohol, sedatives, and tranquilizers relax the muscles of the throat and slow your breathing.
  • Smoking – Smoking causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper respiratory tract. This narrows the airway and increases a smokers risk three times more than people who have never smoked.
  • Nasal Congestion – Swelling in the nasal passages can cause the airway to become blocked or narrowed, especially when lying down. This may be due to allergies or illness. Anatomical abnormalities such as a deviated septum can also compound this issue.

Reducing Your Risks

Some risk factors like age, biological sex, and heredity are beyond your control. Some may require surgical correction. But, through an appropriate treatment plan you can reduce many other risk factors.

Ways you can reduce your risks include:

  • Weight Management – Doctors recommend that most patients with sleep apnea lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce many key risk factors.
  • Exercise – A moderate exercise routine can strengthen your heart and improve circulation. Regular exercise can also improve lung capacity. This helps to reduce how often you wake due to poor oxygenation.
  • Reduce Medication and Drug Use – Reducing the use of opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers will lower your risks.
  • Avoid Smoking and Drinking – Quitting smoking is a great way to reduce your sleep apnea risk factors. As your lungs recover, airway irritation will reduce and allow for clearer breathing. Avoiding alcohol use before bed, or cutting it out altogether will also help.
  • Humidifier – Some airway obstruction is the result of inflammation. Using a humidifier helps to sooth and open the airway for clearer breathing.
  • Sleep Position – Depending on the cause of your obstruction, changing your sleep position may provide relief. Studies show that adults with OSA may benefit from side sleeping. Oddly, the same is not true of children with OSA. The same study showed that back sleeping reduces symptoms in children.
  • Oral Appliances – An oral appliance is a mouthpiece very similar in design to a sport mouthguard. This custom fitted mouthpiece helps to angle the jaw and tongue forward to prevent soft palate collapse. Patients report faster relief from symptoms and a better rate of compliance than with a CPAP.
It is important to take a combined approach to sleep apnea relief. Addressing underlying health issues and reducing risk factors will improve your quality of life. In the meantime, you need to get restful sleep. At Sleep Better Columbus we know the fastest, safest way to help you find relief is to use a custom oral appliance. Dr. Mark Levy has used oral appliance therapy to treat sleep apnea since 2005. He has dedicated himself to continuing his education to provide patients with the best possible care. At Sleep Better Columbus you can be sure you’ll get excellent care, quality appliances, and better sleep.

Do you wonder what triggers sleep apnea? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 for more information.

Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder affecting an estimated 42 million Americans, affecting roughly 1 in 5 adults. Approximately 9% of middle aged women and nearly 25% of middle aged men suffer from some form of sleep apnea. Disturbingly enough, however, most people who have sleep apnea are not aware that they do. Estimates suggest that as many as 75% of severe cases of sleep-disordered breathing go undiagnosed. Sleep apnea is also a major risk factor for serious life-shortening cardiovascular and metabolic health issues. But what is it and what makes sleep apnea so dangerous?

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition where a your breathing pauses for at least 10 seconds during sleep. In some cases these episodes may last several minutes before normal breathing resumes. The average healthy adult may have up to 5 episodes of paused breathing an hour during sleep. This is fairly normal and typically nothing to be concerned with. However, with sleep apnea these episodes occur at least 5 or more times an hour. In extreme cases a sufferer may have as many as 240+ episodes during an 8 hour night.
There are three types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked. This blockage either reduces or completely stops the flow of air through the lungs. During these episodes the body continues to try to breathe. The muscles of the chest and diaphragm work harder to try to force the airway open but are not able to. The most common cause of obstruction is the muscles of the neck and throat relaxing too much. As a result, the airway collapses. This obstruction reduces the flow of oxygen to your brain. When levels drop too low it triggers the gasp reflex, reopening your airway. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the body. Normally, breathing is an involuntary action. You keep on doing it whether you consciously choose to or not. But sometimes these signals fail to send due to differences in brain function. In this case, the airway is not blocked but there is no movement of air through the lungs. Breathing resumes when the oxygen levels drop low enough to trigger the gasp reflex. Central sleep apnea is less common but is, perhaps, the most dangerous form of apnea. It is possible to have both forms. 

Signs of Sleep Apnea

One of the most interesting things about sleep apnea is that most people who have it are not even aware that they do. Diagnosis usually only comes after prolonged complaints from the patient’s sleep partner. Due to the nature of the condition misdiagnosis is common. Many doctors believe that sleep apnea is commonly misdiagnosed as depression, explaining why many cases of depression fail to respond to typical treatment. It is also common for patients to ignore their symptoms, writing it off as something else.
Common signs of sleep apnea include the following symptoms:
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Observable episodes of paused breathing during sleep
  • Waking suddenly, usually accompanied by gasping or choking
  • Morning dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day
  • Changes in mood, such as depression or irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Decreased libido
Not all sufferers experience every one of these symptoms. In fact, some individuals with sleep apnea do not snore at all.

Complications of Sleep Apnea

Because the symptoms of sleep apnea are easily missed and often go unnoticed by sufferers, it might lead you to wonder: Is sleep apnea dangerous? In a word, yes. While not typically immediately fatal, sleep apnea is caused by or contributes to many serious health issues. Interestingly, many of the risk factors that contribute to sleep apnea may also result from apnea itself. People most at risk of developing sleep apnea have one or more of the following traits:
  • Male
  • Obesity (BMI >30)
  • Hypertension
  • Alcohol or sedative use
  • Abnormalities in airway or facial structure
  • Smoker
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Large neck circumference
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic disorder

Studies also show that patients with sleep apnea have a dramatically higher risk of developing the following:

  • Hypertension, especially drug-resistant
  • Obesity
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Need a pacemaker
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Stroke

Studies have shown that sleep apnea is an independent risk factor for hypertension. Patients with no other risk factors are more likely to develop hypertension if they have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also contributes greatly to stroke. Some 65-70% of stroke patients are also diagnosed with sleep-disordered breathing.

Sleep apnea was also found to double your risk of traffic accidents. The risk is significantly higher in people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. These individuals are 15 times more likely to cause an accident. This is due to excessive sleepiness and difficulty concentrating reducing reaction times. Estimates show that sleep apnea contributes to 980 traffic accident deaths per year.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Thankfully, sleep apnea is easy to diagnose and to treat. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea the first thing to do is speak with your doctor. Before your appointment be sure to keep a sleep diary. Record how often you wake in the night and any other symptoms you have noticed. Have your sleep partner record how many times they notice you waking or stop breathing in the night. This information will help your doctor to diagnose your condition. Your doctor will either give you a home test kit, or schedule a sleep study. The data collected during your test will show how often your breathing pauses, for how long, and how much your oxygen levels dip. With this information your doctor will be able to diagnose what form of sleep apnea you have and how to treat it

Long term treatment for sleep apnea involves reducing your risk factors. This may include losing weight, lowering your blood pressure, and ensuring your diabetes is well controlled. Reducing or eliminating alcohol or sedative use will also reduce your risk. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to completely eliminate your risk factors. 

More immediate solutions for treating sleep apnea involve the use of assistive devices.

  • CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines connect to a face mask that cover the nose and mouth. It pumps pressurized air through the mask to keep the airway from collapsing. Patients sometimes struggle to use this mask every night as it can take some getting used to. They are not always particularly comfortable and can cause dry mouth. Some patients also report feeling claustrophobic. 
  • Oral Appliance – A less invasive but equally effective option is an oral appliance. These custom fitted mouthpieces move the jaw forward and prevent the soft palate from collapsing. Patients often report greater compliance with oral appliance than the CPAP because it is easier to use. Greater compliance with using your appliance helps to reduce your health risk factors and ensures you get better sleep. 

In some cases it may be necessary to combine treatment options. At Sleep Better Columbus we dedicate ourselves to finding the best solutions for our sleep apnea patients. We tailor our sleep apnea therapy to each patient to address their individual needs and concerns. If you or someone you love suffers from sleep apnea, or feel may be suffering from it, please contact Dr. Levy for a screening consultation.

Is sleep apnea dangerous? Call Sleep Better Columbus at (614) 362-7292 to discuss your risk factors.

Do Oral Appliances Work for Sleep Apnea?

Do Oral Appliances Work for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is problematic to your health. If you have sleep apnea, you’ll notice the signs. Fatigue, high blood pressure, irritability, and more. Treatment options are effective. The majority of treatment revolves around mouth devices, or “oral appliances”. These open up the airways and allow for easier breathing while sleeping (they do this by holding your tongue in place while you sleep). They also work by pushing or pulling your jaw forward. By controlling the position of the tongue, the jaw will follow suit. 

Using Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea

It’s best to start with these kinds of treatments before thinking about advanced treatment options like a surgery. Each oral appliance has its strength. Not all appliances will work for everyone. Some help by targeting the tongue area, others by targeting the nose, and others by targeting the jaw. Sleep apnea is often the result of issues in one of these areas. Here are some of the symptoms that oral appliances relieve: 

  • Exhaustion/Fatigue 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability  
  • Falling asleep anywhere and everywhere 
  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Learning difficulties 

Here are some of the conditions that oral appliances can prevent: 

  • Heart attacks 
  • Congestive heart failure 
  • Cardiac arrhythmia 
  • Stroke 
  • Depression 
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety 

Oral appliances need to be worn every night before bed. Some of them are more comfortable than others. Some are easier to clean and take care of than others. And some are more expensive than others. The most important thing to remember when researching devices is that you should always seek professional advice from a dentist. Dentists can also work to fit the devices to your mouth. You will also need to follow up with your dentist to let him/her know whether or not the device is alleviating your symptoms.  

For most people, oral appliances work very well. Especially when it comes to snoring. These devices can eliminate snoring completely. Other people may need to take more drastic measures, like surgery. The type of sleep apnea you have can also determine what measures need to be taken. Oral appliances typically only work for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Newer studies are even saying that simple oral devices can help those with severe apnea.  

Why People are Choosing Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea

People with underlying health conditions like diabetes or heart disease may not benefit from these non-invasive treatment methods. They may need surgical intervention or a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). A CPAP is one of the most common methods used in treating sleep apnea, but it can be quite inconvenient. You need to cover your mouth and nose with a mask, plug in the device, and sleep with a constant flow of air. Many people can’t tolerate it. It’s often uncomfortable, but it has been shown to cause immediate results in patients.  

To get the best therapy possible for you, seeing a specialist is highly recommended. They’ll often prescribe a home sleep study and go over your results with you. After you see a specialist, the dentist is a good place to go. They can help fit your oral appliance.  

When you’ve decided to go the route of an oral appliance, the options may seem overwhelming. It’s hard to choose which appliance is best for you, even with professional recommendations. There is bound to be a little bit of discomfort when you first start wearing your appliance. The discomfort is usually around the jaw or the ears. Rest assured; this should pass over time. Your mouth needs to adjust to a new foreign object. When you take your appliance out in the morning, the discomfort should go away.  

Oral appliances will also cause a slight excess of saliva and some tenderness in your teeth. Again, this is normal. Make sure you mention all side-effects to your dentist. He/she will closely monitor you. If the discomfort doesn’t go away, they’ll suggest another oral appliance for your sleep apnea. No matter where you go for your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with your dentist. You need to be able to go to him/her with any and all concerns. Don’t hold back. The only way to get symptom relief is to get a perfect fit.  

Finding the Right Oral Appliances for Your Sleep Apnea

There are quite a few brands and types of oral devices, but the most common is a mandibular advancement device. Mandibular means lower jaw. This looks very similar to a mouthguard. It attaches to the upper teeth and the lower teeth. It is held together with springs and custom adjustments. The device pushes the tongue and the jaw forward, clearing your airway. When you first try it, it will feel odd to have a foreign object in your mouth all evening. And this is one of the devices we mentioned that may cause a little jaw and tooth discomfort. But if it works, it’s worth it. It is more comfortable than wearing the CPAP mask. It’s also very low-maintenance and easy to clean. If you get it professionally fitted by the people at Sleep Better Columbus, your chances of discomfort are reduced.  

The other popular oral appliance is called a tongue retaining mouthpiece. It looks similar to an adult pacifier, so some find it silly, but it works well. It’s also a little simpler than the mandibular advancement device and the CPAP. Once placed into your mouth, it surrounds the tongue and pulls it forward – away from your throat. In order for it to work, you need to stick your tongue into the slot and keep it there all night. You will get used to it, but it’s quite the adjustment.  

Oral appliances can be much more practical than a CPAP or a surgery. They’re great for people who travel frequently because they’re so portable, and they’re often more cost-effective than surgery or a CPAP. They’re also easier to set up – no wires or filters. If they work for you, they’re a wonderful solution. 

For questions or a consultation regarding oral appliances for sleep apnea, give Sleep Better Columbus a call at (614) 362-7292.