Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder. It has reached levels of an epidemic in the US. Sadly many health care professionals ignore the signs or simply fail to screen patients for symptoms. It is important to know if you have this silent killer. As many as 70 million people in the United States suffer from the condition. That is 25% of our population, of which 80% remain undiagnosed and even fewer treated. Sleep apnea affects both adults and children of all ages. It can have a devastating impact on those who directly and indirectly suffer from it. Those who suffer from sleep apnea fail to get the necessary quality sleep needed for vital organs to function properly, resulting in a myriad of other health issues. Lack of quality sleep can significantly shorten one's life span, negatively impact personal and professional relationships and general success.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Snoring. One of the most common and well-known symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring. If you snore loudly, enough that you wake your spouse or even a roommate in the next room, you may have sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when the soft tissues of your mouth and throat relax and slide back to block your airway. The vibration of the tissues when you breathe causes the snoring sound. Some with very severe sleep apnea will actually not snore at all because they aren't breathing.
- Gasping or choking while sleeping. This is often observed by a loved one or is often reported as waking with a sudden jolt while gasping for air. This should not be ignored. Sleep apnea is characterized by periods of time where you stop breathing altogether during your sleep. The lack of oxygen eventually wakes your brain up enough that you roll over or change positions and resume breathing.
- Dry or sore throat. People with sleep apnea usually breathe through their mouth while sleeping, which can result in a dry or sore throat upon waking. At rest, we want the majority of our breathing to be through our nose.
- Restlessness or frequent waking to use the restroom. If you have trouble sleeping or staying asleep at night, it could be due to sleep apnea. When your breathing is interrupted, it wakes you up repeatedly at night, making it difficult to stay asleep for long periods of time.
- Lack of energy. Do you feel tired or even exhausted throughout the day even after 8 hours of sleep? A general lack of energy could be due to sleep apnea and the resulting lack of time spent in the REM cycle, which directly impacts the quality sleep.
- Tendency to doze off during the day. If you tend to doze off easily in your chair watching TV or even at your desk at work or in a long meeting, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Your body is trying to recoup the sleep missed out on at night.
- Irritability or short attention span. Both children and adults get cranky when they don’t get enough sleep. If you feel unnaturally irritable, or if your child is irritable, it may be a symptom of sleep apnea.
- Headaches. Lack of sleep can result in headaches due to the oxygen deprivation that your brain experiences from sleep apnea. Unexplained headaches could be a symptom.
- Dizziness upon awakening. Lack of oxygen from sleep apnea can cause you to feel dizzy when you first get out of bed.
- Frequent nightmares. Frequent or recurring nightmares or night terrors for children have been linked to sleep apnea. The cause of this correlation is not yet known. Late bedwetting is typically an indicator.
What To Do If You Think You May Have Sleep Apnea
Any of these symptoms sound familiar? If you, your significant other, or your child have symptoms of sleep apnea, there are a few different courses of action to consider. The best place to start is to speak candidly with your primary care physician or dental specialists.
In many cases, the cause of sleep apnea is orthodontic and can be corrected by orthodontic treatment. Often orthodontic treatment to reposition the lower jaw is all that is required to stop snoring and restore better breathing at night.
As technology improves, so do the available options we as orthodontists can offer. Sometimes Invisalign, or clear aligner therapy, is all that is needed to achieve noticeable improvement of symptoms. The best way to find out your options is to schedule a consultation.
Demko Orthodontics and Treating Sleep Apnea
Fortunately, there are many options available to help address obstructive sleep apnea and we are happy to help sort through options with you. The place to start, if you suspect you may have some degree of obstructive sleep apnea, or you just feel your sleep quality is pooris to take a sleep test.
Most adult patients come to us having had a sleep test and diagnosis from a medical doctor. However, a prior sleep test is not required. We are happy to assist in setting up a sleep test
For those with moderate to severe OSA, a CPAP is likely where you will be advised to begin. Since 70% of patients find the CPAP intolerable, Dr. Demko and her team are a good alternative. At Demko Orthodontics, we perform an intensive and dynamic screening to determine the optimal jaw position to open up and support the airway, then custom fabricate an oral appliance to sleep with.
During the in-office testing, it may be determined that there is nasal obstruction instead of oral obstruction,at which point the patient will likely be referred to an ENT for treatment options.
Many orthodontic options do exist if a patient desires to fix the root cause of an oral obstruction. A complimentary evaluation is available to determine the best course of treatment. If a sleep study is required, we work closely with sleep clinics to provide that option for you.
If you or your child’s sleep apnea can be corrected by orthodontic means, we can provide you with a permanent solution to improve your sleep as well as your quality of life.
Contact us at any of our convenient locations today to schedule a consultation.
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