Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that causes you to stop breathing during your sleep cycle. It can affect men, women, and children, causing numerous health complications and, if left untreated, sometimes even death. This disorder can be genetic, but lifestyle factors most often play a role in its development. It is often characterized by a vicious cycle of your brain registering that the body has stopped breathing, and then waking you up just long enough to begin breathing again. Then, the cycle starts over. This can happen more than 120 times per hour and cause severe stress on the body, without providing a restful night of sleep.
Below we have outlined some of the most common questions that Dr. Michael Fulbright receives about sleep apnea. Please contact our office with any further questions you may have, or to schedule a complimentary consultation.
What Are The Signs Of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is most often associated with snoring, but the signs will vary based on each individual. Some common daytime symptoms include:
- Trouble concentrating
Alternatively, individuals may show nighttime signs such as:
- Loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Choking or gasping for air
What Are The Types Of Sleep Apnea?
There are different types of sleep apnea, but the most common include obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
Should I Get Checked For OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)?
OSA has historically been linked to a variety of serious health concerns. If you or your partner notice any of the below signs, it is best to schedule a consultation with a sleep professional. If untreated, this disorder can lead to a number of health problems:
- High blood pressure
- Gastric reflux
- Morning headaches
- Impaired concentration
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight gain
- Memory loss
- Car/Work Accidents
- Heart disease
- Sudden cardiac death
What Happens As a Result of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
If you suffer from OSA, the tissues in your oral and/or nasal passages have likely become too relaxed during your sleep cycle. As a result, a healthy amount of air is being kept from reaching your lungs, which can cause the heart rate to increase because the oxygen levels in the bloodstream are being depleted. While this occurs, it is likely you will begin gasping or choking for air. Additional side effects, such as memory loss or irritability, may occur as well.
What Is Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)?
This sleep disorder is less common than OSA and occurs when the brain stops sending signals to the muscles that control breathing. While these signals are only temporarily disabled, central sleep apnea can still cause the breathing pattern to stop multiple times throughout the night, as much as 120 times per hour in severe cases.
What Are The Symptoms Of CSA?
Apart from causing the individual to stop breathing for short periods throughout the night, CSA can also cause mood swings, headaches, snoring, fatigue, issues concentrating, and other debilitating symptoms that may make normal, routine activities difficult.
What Is Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CSAS)?
Complex sleep apnea syndrome is most simply described as a combination of both OSA and CSA.
What Are Signs My Child Has OSA?
The signs for pediatric sleep apnea are similar to those seen in adults. The following list is not comprehensive, but provides some signs that children diagnosed with sleep apnea have illustrated. If your child has an under- or over-developed jaw, they are more likely to develop sleep apnea. Considering this information, it is important to schedule an evaluation.
- Restless sleep
- Choking or gasping for air during sleep
- Frequent naps
Is There A Treatment For Pediatric OSA?
Some of the more common types of treatments for children diagnosed with OSA include adenotonsillectomy, a non-invasive oral appliance, or a CPAP machine.
What Is A Sleep Study?
Once you have visited a sleep specialist, they may recommend you take part in a sleep study to further determine which sleep disorder you have and how best to treat it. The sleep study may take place at home, but one performed at a sleep facility may also be suggested.
How Does Obesity Lead to Sleep Apnea?
Severely overweight individuals often experience sleep apnea. An increased surface area around the neck and/or enlarged tongue and tonsils can exert pressure on the airways. If this occurs, the lungs cannot properly receive an adequate amount of air.
Am I A Candidate For An Oral Appliance?
Only a dentist specially trained in dental sleep medicine can determine your candidacy for an oral appliance. If you experience mild to moderate sleep apnea, a Mandibular Advancement Device may be recommended. This is a custom-made mouth piece that looks similar to a retainer and would be worn at night.
How Long Do I Use My Oral Appliance?
How long you use your oral appliance will depend largely on the intensity of your sleep apnea and what lifestyle or genetic factors affect your disorder. Our doctor can talk more about this with you once he has conducted an evaluation.
How Do I Clean And Protect My Oral Appliance?
It is best to use cold, clean water to cleanse your oral appliance. Brushing it regularly with toothpaste and a toothbrush will also help keep it clean. Any other materials or chemicals may damage the device or void the warranty.
Will My Sleep Apnea Solution Bother My Partner?
As your partner can attest, it is likely the snoring, constant trips to the bathroom and, most importantly, concerns about your health that are bothersome to their own sleep cycle. As an oral appliance is not an electronic machine, it will not make any disruptive noise. However, if you are prescribed a CPAP machine, small air flow sounds may be created as the masks with exhalation ports allow air to escape. The higher the machine setting, the louder this sound will be. If the noise is bothersome to your partner try sleeping on your side with your back turned to them.
How Long Should I Sleep?
Getting a restful night of sleep is just as important as eating a healthy and balanced diet. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours pers night, teenagers need about 8-10 hours, and children (depending on their age) need anywhere from 9-17 hours per night. Details for each age group can be found on the National Sleep Foundation chart located in the Sleep Hygiene section of our website.
How Can I Improve My Sleeping Patterns?
You may have heard of practicing good dental hygiene, but good sleep hygiene is imperative to achieve a healthy night of sleep. By implementing a few steps, you can get on the path towards a combination of REM, light, and deep sleeps with enough energy for the following day. If you still feel tired the next few days after beginning these habits, it may be best to schedule a consultation with a qualified doctor.
Will Insurance Cover Sleep Apnea Treatment?
Before ordering any devices, check with your insurance provider to see what costs they will cover or help supplement. Our practice is one of the few in the area that is Medicare-approved for some types of sleep apnea appliances. Also, PPO insurance plans often provide some level of coverage for sleep apnea treatment.
If you have additional questions about sleep disorders and treatment options, please contact Fulbright Snoring & Sleep Solutions today and schedule a complimentary sleep consultation with Dr. Fulbright.