What is Sleep Apnea

The Greek word “apnea” means “without breath”.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you may stop breathing while you sleep.

There are three types of sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea is a condition where the brain does not send a signal to the body to tell it to breathe while sleeping.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where there is a physical obstruction to inhibit breathing. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type.

The last type of sleep apnea is Mixed, where there is an obstruction to breathing and a brain signal issue.

In all three types, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing or breath insufficiently to keep their blood oxygen saturation up. This can occur hundreds of time an hour. Each time it happens, the brain wakes the individual to resume “normal” breathing. This generally results in frequent interruptions and very poor quality of sleep.

How do I know if I have Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Some of the signs and symptoms are listed below:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping spells at night
  • Impotence
  • Short memory and short attention span
  • Frequently feeling tired and exhausted
  • Morning or night headaches
  • Heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth at night.
  • High blood pressure and other cardiovascular complications
  • Falling Asleep on at work, on the phone or driving
  • Getting up during the night to urinate (nocturia)

Who is at risk of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is surprisingly prevalent. One out of every four adults has sleep apnea, and the odds get higher as you get older.

Forty percent of snorers have sleep apnea. If you are a male, overweight, diabetic or have high blood pressure, you are at a higher risk of sleep apnea. Ask us about our ‘Sleepiness Test’ to find out if you have Sleep Apnea.

How is Sleep Apnea Treated?

The first step is a diagnosis. We will refer you to a sleep center to have a Polysomnogram performed. This will most likely take place in the sleep center where you will spend the night. The Polysomnogram records brain activity, breathing, movements, oxygen saturation in your blood, heart rate and rhythm. Although this is a lot to record, nothing hurts and no needles are used. This will allow us to determine if you have sleep apnea, how severe it is, and what kind of treatment is necessary.

The treatment may involve the use of a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) device or a Dental Appliance to wear at night while sleeping. The CPAP keeps your airway open by forcing air into the throat, and the Dental Appliance keeps your airway open by holding your lower jaw slightly forward. Your sleep physician and Dr. Hedge will determine what is best for you. If you have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and have been prescribed to wear a CPAP and can’t do it (60% cannot), then a Dental Appliance is the next best thing.

What happens if it is untreated?

Sleep Apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, stroke, acid reflux, weight gain, impotence, memory problems, and headaches. The average life of an untreated apneic is about 55 years if they have had it all their life, but once they get past that hurdle, they are safe from premature death, but not misery.