Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you either slow or completely stop breathing while you sleep. This can be caused by either a blockage of the airway (obstructive apnea), a signaling problem in the brain (central apnea), or a combination of the two (mixed apnea). These episodes can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and may occur many times throughout the night. A sleep apnea diagnosis of mild, moderate, or severe depends on exactly how many times per hour an episode occurs. Common signs of sleep apnea are snoring, and gasping or choking sounds during sleep.
Three Types of Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive Apnea
- Central Apnea
- Mixed Apnea
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Some signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Episodes of slowed or stopped breathing during sleep
- Abrupt awakening with gasping or choking
- High blood pressure
- Decreased libido
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Sleep apnea is diagnosed with the help of a sleep study. This study can either be done at a sleep center, or utilizing a home sleep test. Both produce valid results that will record the number of episodes of stopped or slowed breathing, movements, and the oxygen levels in your body during these events. These results will provide an AHI score, which is the number of times per hour that your breathing is stopped or slowed. Your severity of apnea will depend on this score:
- Mild: 5-14 events per hour
- Moderate: 15-29 events per hour
- Severe: 30+ events per hour
Is Treating Sleep Apnea Important?
Treating sleep apnea is incredibly important to your health. When your breathing is altered, so is the amount of oxygen that is coming into your body. The disruption of oxygen leads to restless sleep due to your body subconsciously trying to find a position where it oxygenation is not altered. When left untreated, sleep apnea can often cause excessive daytime fatigue, headaches, and can increase your risk of falling asleep while driving and experiencing workplace accidents. The lack of oxygen from untreated apnea also puts additional stress on your body which can lead to a multitude of systemic health issues such as:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart attack
- Chronic acid reflux
There are three main ways to treat sleep apnea. The most aggressive is with surgery. The gold standard for severe sleep apnea, and the one you have probably heard the most about is CPAP (continuous positive pressure airway) therapy. CPAP therapy involves wearing a face mask connected to a machine that continuously forces air and keeps your airway open. And the third is with an oral appliance that we can fabricate with a visit in our dental office. This oral appliance helps to position your jaw in a certain way to prevent collapse of the airway.
What Can You Do Today?
To get started, give us a call or see your primary care physician. Once you have taken the sleep study and have a diagnosis of apnea, we can begin the process of fabricating an oral appliance for you. With the proper diagnosis, this appliance may be covered by your medical insurance.
Even if you are not diagnosed with apnea, but are a heavy snorer and would like to stop, or more likely your significant other would like you to stop, we can still fabricate the same appliance and you should see immediate results.
Call us today to schedule a consult with Dr. Fiorentini about sleep apnea therapy