What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which you stop breathing while you are asleep. There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. This type of apnea occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. If you snore and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when your throat muscles relax during sleep, your tongue and soft tissues collapse and block your airway and stop air from entering your lungs. This can cause you to stop breathing for anywhere from a few seconds to almost a minute at a time. When this happens, the oxygen in your blood decreases, the heart begins to race, and your brain signals for you to wake. These brief awakenings disturb your sleep – even if you don’t realize it. Other times, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again with a loud gasp. Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals can suffer from the following:
Signs and Symptoms of OSA (obstructive sleep apnea)
- Loud/chronic snoring
- Silent pauses in breathing
- Choking or gasping
- Waking in the morning feeling unrefreshed
- Problems with memory and/or concentration
- Being tired during the day
- Morning headaches
- Dry mouth or sore throat/hoarseness in the morning
- Behavior/mood swings
- Waking up frequently at night to go to the bathroom
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Clenching or grinding at night
Are You Suffering From Sleep Apnea?
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Health risks associated with OSA
It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans are suffocating in their sleep due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Most cases remain undiagnosed and contribute to:
- Heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Alzheimer’s disease
How is OSA Diagnosed?
Obstructive sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a sleep physician, so we will refer you to a sleep center for evaluation. To find out if you have OSA, the sleep specialist will complete a sleep test. This may involve either an overnight sleep test at a sleep center or a home sleep apnea test (HSAT). A sleep specialist will interpret the data from your sleep test. The information from the evaluation and the sleep test results will be used to determine if you have OSA.
How is OSA Treated?
If you are diagnosed with OSA, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. OSA treatments include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliance therapy (OAT), or surgical options. A dentist trained in dental sleep medicine works together with sleep physicians to treat obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy (OAT)
Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT)
OAT is an effective, non-invasive treatment option for snoring and OSA that fits easily into your lifestyle. An oral appliance fits on your teeth similarly to a retainer or bite guard and is worn during sleep. It supports the jaw in a gentle forward position to help keep your upper airway open, which prevents sleep apnea and snoring.
Dr. Bragg is trained to provide OAT and can make a custom-fitted oral appliance by taking a computer scan of your teeth and mouth. Patients enjoy it because it’s comfortable, easy to wear, quiet, portable, convenient for travel, and easy to clean.