Sleep Apnea In Abington, PA
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, at least 12-18 millions adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to stop breathing in your sleep. The tissue in the back of your throat collapses, blocking the airway, which reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to your organs including your heart and brain. When the blood-oxygen level drops low enough, your brain responds and wakes you up to resume breathing. These events of a restricted airway can happen hundreds of times each night causing one to wake up feeling unrefreshed.
Sleep apnea has been linked to serious cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension, heart attacks, and strokes. Patients are also three times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. It is estimated that there are around 10 million Americans who have sleep apnea but are undiagnosed.
If you believe you may suffer from sleep apnea in Abington, Jenkintown or surrounding areas, Dr. Ashley can help. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment or with any additional questions or concerns.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Symptoms include the following:
- Witnessed apneas
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Increased irritability
- Waking from sleep with a choking sign or gasping for air
The only way to test whether or not you might have sleep apnea is to do a sleep study. We at McDowell Dental Group offer a take-home sleep study, called the Medibyte Jr., which is an easy way to discover if sleep apnea is an issue for you. Once the sleep study is complete a report is generated rating the quality and severity of your sleep. Based on the outcome, our doctors will discuss the different treatment options available and will come up with the best solution for your case.
What Are The Different Types Of Sleep Apnea?
There are different types, defined by the causes.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) — This is the more common form, occurring when muscles in the throat relax, blocking airflow.
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) — This is caused when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) — This syndrome differs from OSA in that there aren’t pauses in breathing or decreases in breathing. Patients with UARS simply require greater effort in breathing to get past obstructions.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome — This is categorized as a person having both OSA and CSA.
At McDowell Dental Group, we treat obstructive sleep apnea.
If you’ve noted symptoms of possible sleep apnea, Dr. Ashley will give you an assessment that you complete at home called the Eppworth Sleepiness Scale questionnaire. She also will give you a “bed partner survey,” since your partner likely has to deal with your symptoms every night. The answers you provide in these surveys will probably discount temporary conditions, such as waking up gasping, which can be due to short-term congestion, for instance.
If your answers point to sleep apnea, the next step for Dr. Ashley will be an at-home sleep study. For this, we use the small, convenient MediByte Junior system that is very comfortable, yet very precise. It provides detailed reporting of respiratory and cardiac data, snoring, and numerous other important measurements taken while you sleep. It’s like a sleep lab in your home.
If the results from your at-home sleep study show the probability of sleep apnea, Dr. Ashley will likely refer you to a sleep physician for a polysomnogram, a sleep study performed in a sleep lab.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Treatment depends upon the severity of your sleep apnea. The first options for Dr. Ashley when making treatment recommendations are generally lifestyle changes. This is particularly true with mild cases. In overweight patients, the first option is usually weight loss. This can reduce the amount of tissue in the throat and lessen the sagging, which blocks the airway. Alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping pills all relax the muscles in your throat; cutting down on these can help. Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA than people who’ve never smoked. Smoking leads to inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. Even allergies, and the congestion they cause, can create sleep apnea at times.
After these conservative treatments are exhausted or prove ineffective, the next steps are oral appliance therapy and after that CPAP.
Oral Appliance Therapy
After lifestyle changes, our first direct treatment option for cases of mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea is oral appliance therapy. This involves the patient wearing a mouth guard at night.
You can equate these appliances somewhat to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. Worn only during sleep, the oral appliance supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway. Dr. Ashley has experience with a variety of these appliances — there are over 100 FDA-approved oral appliances — and can help you find the one that works best for you. We take precise measurements and impressions and send them to the appliance manufacturer to create your custom oral appliance. These appliances fit precisely and after an initial period of getting used to it, you’ll barely know it’s there.
Oral appliances offer a comfortable, and far less intrusive option to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) breathing systems. While oral appliances may not be sufficient for more severe cases, for many patients a combination of a little weight loss and an oral appliance is all they need.
The most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is a breathing system that uses air pressure to keep the upper airway passages open. The patient wears a mask over his or her nose during sleep. The mask delivers air pressure that is somewhat greater than the air pressure in the bedroom. This difference in pressure keeps the airway passages open, preventing snoring and apnea.
The problem with CPAP systems, however, is that the patient has to wear a mask and is attached to the CPAP machine with tubing. This can be cumbersome for many patients, and can be difficult to work with. That’s why Dr. Ashley seeks to try and make oral appliance therapy work for her patients, if at all possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is not a direct causal link between either OSA or CSA, although some research does point to the possibility of a genetic influence. More likely, it is the inheritance of certain physical traits/characteristics that contribute to a family member having sleep apnea. Facial characteristics, your skull shape, the way your upper airway muscles are configured — these can contribute to sleep apnea, and if your parent has it, it’s likely you have some of the same characteristics. Plus, factors such as higher body mass index and obesity tend to run in families, and these are direct contributors.
We have patients who discount the seriousness of sleep apnea, thinking it’s just a little snoring. That’s a risky line of thinking. Untreated, it can lead to a number of very serious health concerns:
- High Blood Pressure — Because you wake up over and over during the night, this process places stress on your body, activating your hormone systems. This raises your blood pressure.
- Heart Disease — People with OSA are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and atrial fibrillation.
- Type 2 Diabetes — Sleep apnea is common in people with type 2 diabetes. This is because when your body is tired it has trouble effectively processing insulin.
- Weight Gain — Sleep apnea can make your body release more of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you crave carbs and sweets.
- Adult Asthma — Adult asthma and sleep apnea combined tend to cause the patient to suffer from more asthma attacks.
- Car Accidents — People are up to five times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents, and to even fall asleep at the wheel.
Sure, you can manage drowsiness during the day, although it affects your productivity and increases the chances you’ll fall asleep while driving. But moderate to severe sleep apnea is way more than being a little sleep deprived — it can be life threatening. As you stop breathing when asleep, the oxygen level in your body decreases and carbon dioxide builds up. This high concentration of carbon dioxide is detected by chemoreceptors in the bloodstream. These receptors alert the brain, which then wakes you up to get some oxygen. When this happens your heart rate speeds up dramatically, placing a tremendous load on your heart, and increasing your chances of a heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
It’s far better to let Dr. Ashley use her experience with treating sleep apnea to help you get a good night’s sleep.