Oral Sleep Apnea
Try this: (without taking a deep breath first) hold your breath for 40 seconds 3 times in a row. Terrible, isn't it!?! Welcome to the world of sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea which occurs when a person's airway closes and prevents them from taking a breath for at least 10 seconds.
Think about this: the average person breathes 12-14 times per minute; that's once every 4-5 seconds. The typical pause in breathing that happens during sleep apnea lasts for 20-40 seconds...that's only two or three breaths every minute! Now imagine if you spend a good portion of your night breathing like that; you'd be exhausted! And in fact, waking up feeling tired is one of the main signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, restless sleep, morning headaches, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, depression, unexplained weight gain, acid reflux, night sweats, and irritability are all common signs and symptoms. The trickiest part is, most people don't realize that they're suffering from OSA. Usually a bed partner or family member can hear the loud snores or gasps and push their loved one to pursue treatment (so keep an ear out when the ones you care about are sleeping).
That feeling of exhaustion isn’t limited to just that, your organs are worn out too! During those periods of not breathing, the amount of oxygen that is present in your heart, liver, kidneys, brain, etc. plummets, and those very important tissues start to suffer. Think of it like your insides are aging faster than your outsides. With that comes more systemic issues such as generalized inflammation which causes controlling diabetes, blood pressure, and weight (among other things) very difficult. Many patients who have been frustrated with their inability to control their blood sugar or blood pressure have found they are finally able to do so after being diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea.
? How does one treat sleep apnea?
There are a few ways, and some are more pleasant than others. Some patients undergo surgeries to try to open the airway more, but they are very painful experiences that are not only costly, dangerous, and unpleasant, but they have limited success as well. There are also less invasive ways (whew!) to treat it, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices. These are typically considered the gold standard, but the problem is patient tolerance and compliance. What that means is, most people can’t stand to wear the device all night so they either don’t use it as often as they are suppose to (or at all, in many cases) or they take it off during the night without even realizing they did so. The reason most folks don’t love their CPAP is that the majority of them are bulky, uncomfortable face masks that look like something out of Top Gun and constantly blow air in your mouth. Sounds like a comfy way to sleep, right? Luckily, there’s an alternative that most people do quite well with,which is an oral appliance. A sleep apnea oral appliance is very similar to night guards worn for clenching and grinding, and most patients find that they’re not only surprisingly comfortable but surprisingly effective. If you think you, or someone you know, may be suffering from sleep apnea or heavy snoring, call to schedule a consult with Dr. Currie to discuss your options. There’s even a way to avoid doing the expensive, miserable hospital sleep studies…just ask him how!