If your partner or family complain that they cannot get any sleep at night because of your snores, you are not alone. Studies find that about 45% of adults snore at some point in their lives, and about 25% of adults worldwide snore regularly.
In most cases, snoring is perceived as harmless and is left unchecked. But snoring can be indicative of a variety of health concerns, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes and sleep apnea.
While the health risks of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are commonly known, sleep apnea is often incorrectly considered low-risk and manageable without medical interjection.
The truth is, sleep apnea is quite risky and can reduce your lifespan by ten years.
Here is what you need to know about the disorder:
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a respiratory disorder, which affects 18 million people in the United States alone. In this, a person’s breathing is paused during sleep for ten seconds or more. This can happen because of two reasons.
The first and more common one is medically termed Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Here the airways (called apneas) to the lungs collapse sporadically during sleep. This prevents oxygen from passing through.
The second one, called Central Sleep Apnea, occurs because the brain signals to the body that there is no passage of oxygen during sleep.
While this may not be the case, the body responds with an inability to breathe. As a result, you may end up waking for a few seconds (so slight, that you will not even remember the next day) repeatedly through the night.
You end up choking or snorting to regain your breath in those few seconds and return to sleep.
When this develops without check, it can cause a lot of physical distress without your realizing.
While obstructive sleep apnea is caused because of the loosening and collapse of the apneas in your throat, there are several risk factors that lead to and are aggravated by sleep apnea.
Those ailing from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and nasal congestion are more likely to contract sleep apnea. Being overweight, smoking or having a family history of sleep apnea may also cause the disorder.
It is generally difficult for a sufferer to gauge that they suffer from sleep apnea, particularly because they will probably have no memory of the breathing discomfort in your sleep.
You may think that you are well rested, and suffer from fatigue and sleepiness through the day.
The lack of proper sleep and the variation in oxygen levels in your body puts you at significant risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases like heart failure and cardiac arrest.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you feel fatigued, and your partner complains of being unable to sleep because of your heavy snoring, it is a good idea to consult a physician.
Although it is a chronic disorder, sleep apnea can be easily managed through a variety of techniques.
For sleep apnea, your dentist can provide you with good guidance and healthcare.
- Your dentist can check for common signs of sleep apnea, such as enlarged tongue and tonsils. Share your medical history like your blood pressure, underlying conditions and genetic risk factors. Besides thoroughly checking your throat and mouth, you may also be put under observation as you sleep, to check for symptoms of sleep apnea.
- After your dentist confirms that you suffer from sleep apnea, consult a physician to get a formal diagnosis. While CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is the common treatment technique for it, a number of patients find it hard to use and adjust to CPAP. It increases air pressure in your throat to prevent obstruction, but this causes some discomfort to patients. Surgery is also an option, although it is expensive and can be complicated if the sleep apnea has gone unchecked for an extended period.
- One of the most comfortable and non-surgical ways to combat mild to moderate sleep apnea is by getting oral appliances made by your dentist. There are two types of such appliances: mandibular advancement devices and tongue retaining mouthpieces.
- Mandibular advancement devices work by repositioning your jaw as you sleep, to allow oxygen to enter your body more freely. These devices look like orthodontic retainers and can be similarly customized to fit over your upper and lower teeth. By pushing your lower jaw forward, they allow your throat to open up and prevent the collapse of your airways. This way, you can breathe normally as you sleep.
- Tongue retaining mouthpieces similarly fit over your teeth but primarily lend support to your tongue. These are intended for people who cannot use mandibular advancement devices for medical reasons. These oral appliances keep your tongue pushed forward to similarly prevent your airways from collapsing.
It is best to get one of these oral appliances made for you by your dentist. Although such devices are also available over the counter, a non-customized one can aggravate sleep apnea instead of healing it. The procedure for getting such a device is simple.
First, you will undergo dental sedation to prevent any pain and to calm you. After that, your dentist will take imprints of your mouth and teeth to design a perfectly fitting appliance.
More and more studies are confirming that getting oral devices for your sleep apnea is cost-efficient, low-risk and a comfortable way of treating your sleep apnea.
When treated, not only will your risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases decrease, your sleep and overall sleep will improve, leaving you (and your partner) happier and healthier.