Sleep is one of the major components of overall good health. When we get enough of it, we feel great, but without it, functionality, appearance, and performance suffer. Sadly, recent studies indicate that up to seventy-five percent of us have some sort of sleep issue at least a couple of nights per week. So, if this is you, at least take comfort that you are not alone. Everyone suffers from a bout of insomnia from time to time, or has trouble breathing at night due to allergies or the common cold. For those who suffer from chronic sleep issues, however, it can become a serious problem, having a profound impact on both physical and mental health. While there are several potential causes of chronic sleep disturbance, Obstructive Sleep Apnea is one of the most common afflictions.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, occurs when soft muscle tissue relaxes during sleep and obstructs the airway. This causes the person to stop breathing, sometimes up to hundreds of times per night. Each episode can last from a few seconds to more than a minute. This is usually accompanied by choking, gasping, and snoring, as well as many instances of sleep interruption as the person struggles to breathe. Nearly thirty million adults in the United States suffer from this disease.
A lack of proper sleep can lead to many significant physical and mental health concerns. These range from weight gain and diabetes to irritation and a lack of ability to concentrate. Some studies also link poor sleep to decreased cardiovascular health, such as irregular heartbeat, increased stress hormone levels and hypertension. As you can see, getting a good night’s rest is more important than you might imagine. Now that you understand how necessary it is, let’s look at some of the treatment options available for those who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices work by sending a steady supply of pressurized air through tubing that is connected to a portable machine at one end and a mask that covers the nose, and sometimes also the mouth, of the human being at the other end. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is perhaps the most common of the PAP devices. With this method, a pre-determined air pressure is set by a specialist based on an individual’s unique symptoms and needs. The CPAP device maintains the pressure needed to keep the airway open, greatly lessening the likelihood of impaired sleep.
Surgery, while not usually the first recommended method of treating sleep apnea, can sometimes be effective as well. In adults, a surgeon will attempt to determine where the obstruction occurs in the airway and make surgical alterations. It is sometimes difficult to locate the blockage. There are many points where tissue can settle when an individual relaxes during sleep. Sometimes, surgeons will conduct several smaller surgeries in stages to help combat this issue.
With children suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the removal of the adenoids as one of the first treatment choices. In as many as seventy-five percent of children with this diagnosis, this surgery can be successful.
Many individuals suffering from chronic OSA have great success with the use of oral appliances. Research shows that they are an effective treatment for this condition. They are worn in the mouth during sleep, helping to support the jaw in a forward position. In some ways, these appliances are similar to a retainer or a mouth guard used in sports or other physical activities. In addition, they are more portable than the CPAP device, and generally much less costly. For many, they are also more comfortable and less risky than surgery. And, much of the time, medical insurance will cover the cost of these devices. While oral appliances are a viable option for many suffering from this disease, it is necessary to consult with a dental professional that can work with you to determine the appropriate appliance for your needs.
The first step is consulting with your physician to determine if oral appliance therapy might be the right treatment choice for you. If you then decide to proceed with this option, your doctor will write a prescription for a consult with a dentist that specializes in this area. The dental professional will conduct a thorough evaluation to make certain your mouth and joints are healthy enough to support an oral appliance. Next, they will determine which of the many appliances available will work best for you. Your physician will most likely provide a referral to a dentist in your area, but the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine can also assist you in locating a professional if needed.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the importance of good sleep cannot be overstated. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can produce life altering results, such as chronic fatigue, memory loss, lack of concentration, and even an increased likelihood of traffic and workplace accidents, due to all of these factors combined. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available for sleep apnea. Consult with your doctor to find the one that works best for you.
If you are interested in learning more about using an oral appliance to treat your Obstructive Sleep Apnea, please contact Mark Levy DDS at (614) 777-7350 today. Our experienced staff can provide a full evaluation as well as all the information you will need to make the best decision for your treatment needs.