Sleep Apnea and Snoring can be MAJOR HEALTH RISKS!
Snoring and sleep apnea don’t always go hand-in-hand, but one is often an indication of the other. This is all because of what sleep apnea is and how it affects the body.
If you’re not familiar with it already, sleep apnea is a serious condition that keeps patients from getting enough oxygen while they sleep. In fact, a sleep apnea patient will actually stop breathing for 10, 20, 30 or more seconds. That doesn’t sound bad, except when you add that they can do this sometimes hundreds of times per night. As a result, they might spend the entire night cycling through patterns of sleeping and waking, sometimes without even knowing it. I always say, “We need 3 things to live.” 1) Food: However, Gandhi and others throughout our history have shown, we can go a weeks without food. 2) Water: we can actually go several days without it (if we had to). 3) Air: How long can you hold your breath? Obviously, we can literally live only a couple minutes without air.
TEST YOURSELF: Get a stopwatch out. Exhale normally, but DO NOT INHALE. Start the timer. Hold your breath for 30 seconds. See how long you can go. How do you feel after 10 seconds? 20 seconds? Can you make it to 30 seconds? Imagine repeating that cycle over and over during the night. Do you think your body would feel “rested” in the AM? Physiologically, sleep apnea can dramatically change your body for the worse very quickly. To give you an example, smoking and alcohol increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, etc. by a factor ranging from 7 to 11 (depending on which study you read). However, moderate to severe sleep apnea can increase your risks of the same by a factor of 34! Even mild apnea can raise your blood pressure, trigger diabetes, make it difficult to lose weight, and give you a feeling of chronic fatigue! This is serious stuff!
So how can you know if you have sleep apnea?
Snoring is a common indicator, while other symptoms include daytime drowsiness, depression, irritability, fatigue, and short-term memory loss. If you’ve noticed that you suffer from any of these, consider scheduling an appointment with your physician (or a dentist trained in snoring/sleep apnea). Sleep apnea may be a serious condition, but it can often be treated conservatively with a custom-made oral appliance. Men and women with weight issues are immediately at risk for apnea. Men with a 16.5” neck size or greater are automatically defined as being at risk. However, as a dentist, some of my clients that have the worst level of apnea are very skinny. So, while being overweight is a risk factor, it is not automatically diagnostic. There is a test called the “Epworth Sleepiness Scale” that can easily be found online. It is a simple test that can give you an idea of whether you are at risk. However, the only way to truly diagnose sleep apnea is to have a physician prescribed test. If we suspect that you have sleep apnea, we refer you immediately to your physician. If your M.D. is not comfortable referring you for a sleep study, we have several sleep centers and physicians that we work in conjunction with to help you get diagnosed quickly. Ultimately, achieving high quality sleep is paramount to your health.
Treating Sleep Apnea and Snoring with an Oral Appliance
Sleep apnea has many degrees of severity and an often time requires the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) appliance. Other times, when apnea is milder, it can be treated with an oral appliance (a type of simple mouth guard). Regardless of the degree of apnea, diagnosis is key. Sleep apnea and snoring are often caused by an obstructed airway. An oral appliance works by holding your jaw forward during sleep, ensuring that those airways remain open all night long. That means that instead of waking up constantly during the night, or keeping your partner awake with your snoring, you can both get the full night of rest you deserve. We are a sleep deprived country. The quantity of your sleep is often times over-rated. The most important factor is the QUALITY of your sleep. If you had 10 hours of poor quality sleep versus 5 hours of high quality sleep, I’ll take the latter any day or night!
If you think you might have sleep apnea but haven’t been diagnosed yet, do not wait any longer. Every night you go to bed, you could be putting your health in jeopardy. You can also visit http://www.eccellasmiles.com/to learn more about this condition and take a standardized sleep apnea test. Happy Sleeping!
W. Scott Wagner, DMD, LVIF
Smiles, Skin, Sports, and Wellness