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What is Sleep Apnea?

Is sleep apnea just a fancy medical term for snoring? The answer to that is “yes” and “no.” According to an article in EZinearticles, “Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder which is characterized by abnormal pauses in the breathing pattern, or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep. Each pause between successive breaths is called an “apnea” – a word derived from the Greek word “apnoia” which means ‘without breath’.”  What that means is that you actually stop breathing, maybe hundreds of times per night, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the brain. You partner may hear this as a pause in breathing, then a snort or a gasp for air. Or then again, it all may happen deathly quietly.

According to the same article,

Common symptoms of Sleep Apnea are:

“Loud chronic snoring
Choking or shortness of breath during sleep
Breathing pauses while sleeping for more than 10 seconds, drowsiness during daytime
Waking up thirsty
Headaches in the morning
Intermittent sleep
Waking due to shortness of breath and/or choking
Difficulty concentrating when awake
Short temper or depression”

So, Sleep Apnea is often snoring, but not always! Especially in women, it can be relatively quiet. And it’s not just a nuisance to your family, it can be dangerous to you!

To find out more on the effects of sleep apnea, and a detailed explanation of the types, read the article.
When symptoms become apparent, it is advisable to see a medical practitioner, specifically a sleep specialist or dental sleep apnea specialist, for an official diagnosis. They will administer a sleep study or polysomnography test conducted in a sleep lab. Only a trained professional can prescribe the correct treatment. Once properly diagnosed, your doctor can recommend one of many available treatments that can effectively treat this condition.

There are three classifications of sleep apnea, according to Bob Shaughnessy, in another EZinearticle :
“Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA – is the most common. When throat muscles relax during sleep, the air passages may become blocked because soft tissues around the throat and nasal passages also relax thus impeding the free flow of air
Central sleep apnea or CSA – during sleep, there is an imbalance in the brain’s respiratory control center disrupting the signals between the brain and the diaphragm muscles that control breathing
Mixed apnea or complex sleep apnea (CompSA) – patients show symptoms of OSA but when the cause of the airway blockage is cleared, the patient will then exhibit CSA symptoms as well.”

To find his recommendations for treatment, read the article here.

Sleep Apnea Therapy and Treatments:

Once your dentist or doctor has diagnosed the type of sleep apnea, the treatment may be as simple as wearing special pajamas that force you to sleep on your side, and/or losing a few pounds and refraining from alcohol before bedtime (it can cause the choking effect of sleep apnea to become worse). If these don’t clear up the problem, no fear.

There are several sleep apnea machines available to treat Obstructive sleep apnea. The most famous, long considered the first option, is the  CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, a box with a fan, a tube, and a plastic mask with with straps that fits over your mouth and nose. It’s very effective, if you can get used to it, but many people cannot.

Another Treatment option is a BIPAP or bi-level adjustable airway pressure device. This machine has the fan and tube, but is more comfortable, as the air-pressure adjusts during inhalation and exhalation, and there are no mask nor straps, making it more comfortable.

Oral appliances, which look like sports mouthpieces or retainers, can also be worn to treat OSA, and they work as stop snoring devices. These devices can keep the throat open by helping to keep the jaw and tongue in proper alignment when lying down. These are easier to use than the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and BI-Level Positive Airway machines but the latter are often more effective.

As a last resort, surgery is an option. To read more details on the surgical options, see the article.

Treating central sleep apnea is more complicated, due its connection to the brain – and it needs to be investigated, because it may be a sign of underlying health problems, like heart failure and stroke, however, often remedies for OSA can be applied to CSA as well.

Is Sleep Apnea or Snoring Ruining Your Life or Your Relationship?

Sleep Apnea is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people. You don’t have to feel guilty any longer but you do need to take action.

Stop Snoring, Sleep Better, and Live Longer!

The Dental Sleep Apnea Clinic can help you find relief from your sleep apnea. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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