Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder that interferes with healthy breathing patterns during sleep. It is characterized by snoring, which may be so loud that it affects the sleep quality of bed partners. Having sleep apnea can put a strain on relationships, cause daytime fatigue, and even lead to other secondary conditions like depression. Worse, severe cases of sleep apnea can be life-threatening.
Though snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea, not all people who snore actually have sleep apnea. As much as 50% of Americans snore at some time, whether occasionally or chronically. However, only 26% of American adults have sleep apnea. So how do you know the difference? Harmless snoring does not interfere with breathing patterns. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, causes breathing cessations and sometimes ‘gasping’ during sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many ways of treating the symptoms of sleep apnea. This may include conservative approaches, such as a new sleeping position to avoid sleeping on the back or weight loss.
Dr. Fisher may recommend a sleep study to confirm your diagnosis. There are very accurate devices that can be used to determine your risk for sleep apnea, as well as your tooth grinding or clenching episodes while you sleep in the comfort of your own bed.
If your apnea symptoms are severe or conservative treatments are not working, you may be prescribed a nighttime dental device or a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) to open the airway. The dental oral devices have become very advanced to treat sleep apnea and patients are more compliant to wear the mouth guard versus the CPAP machine. It is also easier to travel with an oral device than the CPAP machine also contributing to better compliance. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Keep in mind that a diagnosis of sleep apnea is not always permanent. Many patients find that losing weight can be an effective way of opening the airway during sleep.
1 out of 4 children suffer from enlarged tonsils and adenoid tissues that cause both snoring and sometimes sleep apnea. Consequently, removal of tonsils and adenoid tissues is an easy and effective way to improve a child’s breathing while sleeping. 5% of children versus 26% of adults are effected by sleep apnea. Although it is not a high percentage of children affected, if your child suffers from snoring, mouth breathing, daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating or behavioral problems, you should consult with Dr. Fisher or a health care professional.