Have you or a loved one lost countless hours of sleep because of chronic loud snoring? Sometimes it’s the result of congestion caused by allergies or a viral infection, but other times it’s due to your airway being blocked by relaxed muscles in the back of your throat. If this happens just about every time you go to sleep, you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is one of three types of sleep apnea—the others are central and mixed. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to your muscles that control breathing, and mixed is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with the most prevalent form being OSA. Unfortunately, the loss of restful sleep isn’t the only side effect of sleep apnea.
Conditions that are frequently associated with sleep apnea include diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Sleep apnea is also linked to accidents in traffic and the workplace, often as a result of falling asleep at the wheel. It’s rough enough to try and drag yourself out of bed when you don’t feel like you’ve slept, but the potentially deadly consequences make sleep apnea a disorder you shouldn’t ignore.
If you’ve taken suggestions such as developing a relaxing routine that includes sleepy time tea and a bath with lavender-scented bubbles, eating a light, bland dinner, cutting out smoking, drinking, and the use of sedatives, and you’ve shut down electronics, darkened your room, and gone to bed earlier, but you’re still not experiencing relief, a sleep consultation should be scheduled.
Symptoms experienced as a result of sleep apnea can vary from person to person depending on the severity of the condition (it can be mild, moderate, or severe) and how long they’ve been battling it. However, chronic snoring and waking up gasping for air tend to be the universal signs. In fact, a person with sleep apnea may stop breathing for at least 10 seconds up to 100 times per hour. If your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs, it can’t conduct its healing processes—this causes systems to go, well, haywire.
Sleep apnea is often seen as a disorder that only affects overweight individuals. This is a dangerous misconception. Although obesity contributes to a larger neck circumference and smaller airway, it’s far from being the only risk factor. Another fact that surprises people is that children can be diagnosed with sleep apnea, too—up to 4% of children deal with it, and it’s frequently misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
If you’ve been suffering from sleepless nights to the point that you don’t look forward to your head meeting the pillow at the end of your day, we would love to inform you of a comfortable, convenient way to treat your obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines have been the gold standard of treatment for years, but your options include a subtler, less invasive solution.
If you have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy could be your ticket to Better Sleepville. Jokes aside, an oral appliance is worn like a nightguard. It’s customized to fit your mouth comfortably and works by gently shifting your lower jaw forward, which prevents the collapse of your airway. Imagine deep, even breathing and a night without several awakenings—it can be your reality!