WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep, as often as 20 to 30 times an hour. Each time you stop breathing in your sleep, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain, which temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing.
Since the time spent awake is so brief, most people with sleep apnea don’t remember it. Many believe they are getting a good night’s sleep when, in fact, they are not. The constant wake-sleep, wake-sleep cycle prevents people with sleep apnea from enjoying deep sleep, which results in a constant drowsy feeling during the day.
TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Occurs due to a physical blockage, usually the collapsing of the soft tissue in the back of the throat.
Central Sleep Apnea
Occurs when breathing stops because the muscles involved don't receive the proper signal from the brain. Some individuals suffer from “mixed” or “complex” sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central.
Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
Loud snoring at night
Waking up at night short of breath
Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
Headaches upon waking in the morning
Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
Extreme drowsiness throughout the day
TREATMENT OF SLEEP APNEA
Treatments for sleep apnea depend on the severity of each individual case, and the type of apnea. Basic treatment can be behavioral — for instance, patients are instructed to lose weight, stop smoking, or sleep on their sides instead of on their backs.
Beyond that, oral devices can be used to position the mouth in such a way that prevents throat blockage. In more severe cases, surgery may be the best option.
Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical problem. If left untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart failure and stroke. The ongoing state of fatigue caused by sleep apnea can lead to problems at work or school, as well as danger when driving or operating heavy machinery.
Sleep apnea can also cause complications with medication or surgery; sedation by anesthesia can be risky, as can lying flat in bed after an operation. If you know or suspect you suffer from sleep apnea, let your family doctor know before taking prescribed medication or undergoing surgery.
If you think you, or someone you know, may have sleep apnea contact our practice. We can refer you to a sleep apnea specialist. The specialist may recommend a sleep study to diagnose the precise extent of the problem, and can prescribe appropriate treatment. Depending on your situation, treatment may involve an oral device we can custom-design for you.
While snoring is a common problem for many people, it can also be a sign of other major health complications. It is estimated that more than 80 million people in North America snore while sleeping, which affects not only the quality of the snoring person’s sleep, but that of their loved ones and other family members. Luckily, there is a way to treat chronic snoring.
MANDIBULAR ADVANCEMENT DEVICE
If you snore at night, then a mandibular advancement device (MAD) may represent a solution and a better night’s sleep! The MAD is a specially designed dental device that gently helps to keep the lower jaw, or mandible, in a forward position, which increases the space between the airway passage and helps you breathe better so you can get a full, quiet night’s sleep.
Some devices also stop the tongue from falling back over your windpipe. Dr. Beckman will fit these special appliances to meet your individual condition.