If you are usually drowsy during the day or you snore loudly or wake up in the middle of the night trying to catch your breath, you may be one of the more than 22 million Americans with sleep apnea.
DO YOU HAVE SLEEP APNEA?
WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep for 10 seconds or more. In the most troubling cases, this can happen as many as 60-80 times per hour! Each time you stop breathing in your sleep, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain, which temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing. Since the time you spend awake is so brief, most people with sleep apnea don’t even realize it, and many feel like they are getting a good night’s sleep when, in fact, they are not. The constant wake-sleep, wake-sleep cycle prevents those with sleep apnea from achieving deep sleep, and they feel constantly drowsy during the day. Additionally, the continuous stress that sleep apnea puts on your body greatly increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF SLEEP APNEA?
The following symptoms can be indications of sleep apnea. If you notice one or more of them, contact our practice.
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Loud snoring
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night
- Waking up with a sweaty head and neck
- Waking up several times a night to urinate
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Erectile dysfunction
- Irregular heartbeat
- Inability to control blood pressure, even with multiple medications
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Extreme drowsiness throughout the day
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA?
There are three types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common and occurs due to a physical blockage, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses. Less common is central sleep apnea (CSA), when breathing stops because the muscles involved don’t receive the proper signal from the brain. Some people have “mixed” or “complex” sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central.
IS SLEEP APNEA DANGEROUS?
Sleep apnea is a serious medical problem. If left untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart failure and stroke. The continued state of fatigue that sleep apnea causes can lead to problems at work or school and create a highly dangerous situation when driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep apnea can also cause complications with medication or surgery — sedation by anesthesia can be risky, as can lying flat in bed after an operation. If you know or suspect you have sleep apnea, let your physician know before taking any prescribed medication or undergoing surgery.
HOW IS SLEEP APNEA TREATED?
Sleep apnea treatment depends on the type of apnea and the severity the case. Only an MD can diagnose sleep apnea after you have undergone a sleep study. Basic treatment for mild sleep apnea may be behavioral. For instance, a patient may be instructed to lose weight, stop smoking, or sleep on their side instead of their back. When lifestyle or behavioral changes aren’t effective, an oral device similar to an orthodontic retainer can be used to position the lower jaw forward slightly to open up the airway. In more advanced cases, the patient will need to use a CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine, with a mask that fits over your nose and mouth. CPAP assures an open airway by assisting each breath with pressurized air. The pressure is adjusted to a patient’s particular needs. Some patients, however, don’t find success with CPAP due to claustrophobia or because they have highly active lifestyles. Even in the more advanced cases of sleep apnea, an oral appliance can be effective if the patient is unwilling or unable to use CPAP. In mild to moderate cases, an oral appliance is often the first choice in treating sleep apnea. Our doctors and staff are specially trained to evaluate and treat sleep apnea with oral appliances in coordination with your medical doctor.
IS A CUSTOM MADE ORAL APPLIANCE COVERED BY MY MEDICAL INSURANCE?
In most cases, even if you have already tried a CPAP machine, insurance will cover an oral appliance to treat sleep apnea. Our office sleep coordinator would be happy to discuss how your insurance might help you receive an oral appliance to treat your sleep apnea. After collecting some information about your specific plan, she can submit a pre-authorization to see what coverage you have. Most medical insurance plans do cover oral appliance therapy.Give us a call at (253) 236-5240 or contact us online for more information.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT THAT SOMEONE IN MY FAMILY SUFFERS FROM SLEEP APNEA?
Contact our practice, and we can find the best course of action for you. Please do NOT buy a “snoring appliance” from the internet or a TV ad. These products are bulkier and less comfortable than a custom-made device. More importantly, it is impossible to tell the difference between simple snoring and sleep apnea without a formal sleep study. You may resolve your snoring with an over-the-counter device but still NOT resolve sleep apnea, which is even more dangerous because you have simply turned off the body’s warning system that tells you something is seriously wrong.
Don’t wait any longer! Call today. You are only increasing your risk of serious health problems, like a fatal heart attack or stroke, if you leave this critical health threat unresolved or inadequately treated. We can guide you through the process of appropriate diagnosis by a qualified MD and help determine the best treatment.
DID YOU KNOW? 80% OF MODERATE TO SEVERE CASES GO UNDIAGNOSED?