Chances are you know someone who snores. You may have even been told that you are the one making some night time raucous. But did you know that this may be a warning sign that you or your loved one has a serious and life threatening condition called sleep apnea? What is that, you may ask. Sleep apnea is serious condition that prevents airflow during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing either due to an airway obstruction or the brain fails to tell the body to breathe. Depending upon the severity, some may stop breathing hundreds of times during one night. This leads to a decrease in the oxygen level of your blood. In turn, your body tries to compensate but the results include a harmful change in your blood vessels, organs and brain. Scary stuff indeed.
Who is at risk? Traditionaly, older individuals that are overweight, have high blood pressure as well as diabetics and smokers. Having said that, even young, slim individuals can have sleep apnea. If you or someone you know snores, gasps or chokes while sleeping, have them checked out A.S.A.P. for this potentially life threatening condition.
When the body is deprived of oxygen due to sleep apnea, sleep is interrupted as we become aroused to begin breathing again. We may not awaken fully, but this sleep pattern disrupts the proper stages of sleep that rejuvenate the body and mind naturally. Additionally, bed partners often suffer from secondhand sleep deprivation which lead to their own health issues and affects the quality of their life.
Left untreated, sleep disorders can lead to:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart attack
- Erectile dysfunction
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Memory Problems
- Weight Gain
- Gastro-esophageal reflux
Additionally, studies indicate that 1 in 20 drivers over the age of 30 suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness resulting in preventable motor vehicle accidents. Having sleepy drivers on the road affects us all.
If you think you, or someone you know may have sleep apnea, do not wait to get a good night’s sleep that is paramount to your health and even the safety of those around you. Contact your local sleep physician for an evaluation and sleep study. If you find that you do have sleep apnea there are several treatment options available including C.P.A.P., surgery to modify and open the airway, or a Mandibular Advancement Splint .
C.P.A.P. or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, is a machine that uses mild air pressure to keep the airway open. It is attached to a flexible hose that increases the air pressure through a mask or nasal attachment. This is the first treatment option for most patients with sleep apnea and should be used whenever possible. Most patient adapt quite well to its use after any necessary adjustments are made. However, compliance can be issue for some to due comfort and convenience. Unfortunately there have been reports of individuals dying from heart attacks while the C.P.A.P. was sitting unused nearby. The device that could have saved their life.
If you cannot tolerate a C.P.A.P. mask, there is an alternative that can be fabricated by a trained and experienced dentist. It is dental device called mandibular advancement splint, or M.A.S., that holds the lower jaw and tongue forward making more space to breathe and prevent snoring. Every effort should be made to try the C.P.A.P. first but if complications prevent use of the C.P.A.P., the comfort and convenience of a dental device should explored. The most common side effect of a dental device is mild tooth and jaw soreness and transient bite changes. A dentist with proper training and experience in this therapy can reduce the occurrence of side effects and properly manage them if they should occur. This device is typically covered by Medicare and most PPO insurance plans.
The facts are astounding. Sleep apnea is serious business and should not be ignored. The good news is that there are treatment options out there that can be explored for you or your loved one.