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Sleep Apnea In-Depth
Cambridge, OH

Woman covering ears while husband snoresWhen you have a good night of sleep, you wake up feeling rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle the day ahead. You feel energized, motivated, and ready to go. Even those who generally sleep well, have the occasional poor night of sleep. They toss and turn or are just unable to stay asleep. Upon waking up, they feel tired and sluggish. Still, they can get through their day. Then they go to bed, and their sleep returns to normal. The next day, they wake up feeling rested and refreshed again. For millions of Americans, however, poor sleep every night is their reality.

No matter what they do, they wake up feeling exhausted. Every morning is a struggle just to get moving and every day can be a challenge. Does this sound familiar? If so, you might be living with a condition known as sleep apnea. OHIOSmiles can help.

The Importance of Sleep

You have probably heard people joke that they do not need to sleep. You may have even made these jokes yourself. Those who have a busy schedule might even view sleep as a hindrance, preventing them from getting everything done. The truth, however, is that sleep is incredibly important. Moreover, it does not just sleep that is important but getting quality sleep. As you sleep, your body works to repair itself both physically and mentally. Your body repairs damaged cells.

Your immune system is boosted, which allows it to properly protect you while you are awake. Sleep helps to recharge your cardiovascular system and gives your body a chance to recover from everything that is experienced during the course of the day. All of this allows you to wake up feeling rested, refreshed, and ready to go.

What Happens During Sleep?

The idea of sleep seems fairly simple. You close your eyes, you sleep, and then you wake up again in the morning. Sleep is quite complex. As you sleep, you experience two different sleep cycles, each of which is responsible for its tasks. NREM, or non-rapid eye movement, sleep takes up about 75 to 80% of your total sleep. During this phase, most of the health benefits of sleep occur.

Tissue growth and repair occur, as does energy restoration and the release of hormones that are responsible for growth and development. REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep takes up about 20 to 25% of your sleep. It is during this phase that dreaming occurs. REM sleep helps you to process different emotions and stresses as well as memories. It is also believed that REM sleep is linked to the areas of your brain that are used when you are learning new skills. Both NREM and REM sleep alternate back and forth several times during the course of the night. Completing these cycles is crucial for ensuring quality sleep.

Effects of Chronic Poor Sleep

The occasional bad night of sleep is not that harmful. For whatever reason, you might be unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, leaving you to get up in the morning feeling groggy and sluggish. You might struggle to get through your day, but you are still able to function at a mostly normal level.

If you have poor sleep night after night, however, this is when serious issues can arise. Chronic poor sleep can significantly impact your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. You may be faced with problems such as
•  Trouble staying awake during the daytime. You might begin to doze off during the course of the day, even at inappropriate moments. You may even fall asleep while driving a car, which is not only dangerous but can be fatal as well.
•  Finding it difficult to perform at your best. This can affect your work or school performance.
•  You have trouble with problem-solving.
•  Issues with memory.
•  You might find it difficult to perform certain types of physical activities, such as lifting or running.
•  Irritability and difficulty controlling your emotions. You may find that you become angry or upset more easily. This can impact your social life and your relationships with others.
•  Depression. Those who suffer sleep apnea are at an increased risk for developing depression when the issue goes untreated for too long.
•  Weight gain. There are many different factors that can lead to weight gain. Poor sleep is believed to be a contributing factor because your body cannot regulate hormones properly.
•  Poor immunity. When you do not sleep well, your immune system cannot function properly. This leaves you more vulnerable to illnesses.
•  An increased risk of developing heart disease.
•  An increased risk of suffering a stroke.
•  An increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Poor sleep over time can impact the way in which your body metabolizes glucose.
•  Digestive issues. Poor sleep can increase inflammation in your body, which can lead to digestive issues such as IBS.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects your quality of sleep. It affects millions of Americans. When you have sleep apnea, your sleep cycles are disrupted several times during the course of the night. However, you are completely unaware that it is happening. However, what causes these disruptions?

The disruptions in your sleep cycles occur because your breathing is paused for several seconds. Called an apneic event, these cessations in your breathing occur multiple times during the course of the night. When you stop breathing, your brain triggers your body to partially wake up so that breathing can be restarted. Because you only partially wake up, you are often completely unaware of what is happening. Something else happens, too. Every time that you wake up, your body has to start the sleep cycles from the beginning. Because of this, your body is unable to complete the necessary NREM and REM sleep cycles.

Sleep apnea ranges in severity. Those with mild sleep apnea experience between 5 and 13 apneic events per sleep hour. Those with severe sleep apnea experience 30 or more events per sleep hour. It is no wonder that those with sleep apnea wake up feeling so exhausted.

There are also two different types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the most common type of sleep apnea. This type occurs when your throat becomes blocked while you sleep, usually by your tongue or other excess oral tissues. Central sleep apnea occurs when there is a miscommunication between your brain and the muscles that control your breathing. This type of sleep apnea is often caused by instability in the respiratory control center.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can affect anyone. It can affect men, women, and even children. However, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing the issue. These risk factors include:
•  Weight. Those who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of developing sleep apnea. This is because there may be excess fatty tissue near the entrance of the throat that can block it while you sleep.
•  Having a large tongue or large tonsils.
•  Your age. While anyone can develop sleep apnea, those over the age of 40 are at greater risk.
•  You are a man. Sleep apnea can affect men and women alike, but men have a higher risk.
•  You suffer from GERD or gastroesophageal reflux.
•  Nasal obstructions. This includes allergies or a deviated septum.
•  You have a family history of sleep apnea. If you have close blood relatives, such as parents, who have sleep apnea, your risk is higher.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Those with sleep apnea are typically unaware that they have it. The only thing they know is that they are exhausted day after day, no matter what they do. Being tired is just a normal part of their life. This feeling of exhaustion is just one of the symptoms of sleep apnea. There are several other symptoms that can occur as well. These symptoms include:
•  Snoring. Many people who snore are completely unaware that they do it unless a partner or roommate lets them know.
•  You wake up with a throat that feels dry or sore.
•  Falling asleep during the day. This can occur when you are sitting on the sofa or even while you are performing an important task that requires your full concentration, such as operating heavy machinery or driving a car.
•  Difficulty concentrating.
•  Issues with memory. You might find that you are becoming more forgetful.
•  Mood swings and irritability.
•  Insomnia, or trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
•  Waking up gasping for air or feeling like you are choking.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Before you can receive treatment for sleep apnea, you first need to be diagnosed. To diagnose sleep apnea, a sleep study needs to be performed. This type of testing is often done at a sleep clinic, but it can sometimes be performed in the comfort of your own home as well. The test performed is called a polysomnogram. You are hooked up to machines while you sleep. These machines electronically transmit and record your physical movements.

Electrodes are placed on your face and scalp. They function to transmit the electric signals sent by your brain and your muscles to the computer. You also have a belt placed around your waist and one around your abdomen. These belts monitor your breathing. In the morning, a sleep specialist reads and interprets all of the information recorded by the computer. The specialist is then able to diagnose sleep apnea, or another sleep-related disorder, and prescribe treatment.

There are several tests that may be performed during your sleep study. These tests include:
•  An EKG to monitor your heart activity.
•  An EEG to measure brain waves.
•  An EOG, which monitors the movements of your eyes.
•  An EMG to monitor muscle activity.

What Treatments are Available?

When you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, getting the right treatment is essential for helping you to finally get the sleep you need to wake up feeling rested. There are several different treatments that might be prescribed. These treatments include:
•  Weight loss. For those who are overweight or obese, losing weight can be enough to put an end to sleep apnea.
•  Changing the way you sleep. Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue or other oral tissues to slide back into your throat. By changing the position in which you sleep, this can help to solve the problem. If you find that you keep rolling onto your back, special pillows can be purchased to help keep you from doing so.
•  Making lifestyle changes. Quitting tobacco products and alcohol can help to alleviate sleep apnea.
•  C-PAP. C-PAP is a continuous positive air pressure machine. This machine delivers a constant stream of air through a small mask that you wear over your nose while you sleep. This airflow helps to keep the airway open.
•  Oral surgery. In some cases, surgery may be required. There are different types of surgeries that may be recommended, including surgery to correct alignment issues, remove tonsils, remove excess tissue, widen the airway, or move the lower jaw forward.

Treating Your Sleep Apnea with a Custom Oral Appliance

One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is the C-PAP machine. However, some patients find this machine difficult to use, as it restricts movements during sleep. This can cause even more sleep issues. Other patients simply do not want to use the C-PAP machine.

If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea, we can provide you with an alternative to the C-PAP with oral appliance therapy. With this treatment, we provide you with a custom fit oral appliance that you wear in your mouth while you sleep. The oral appliance fits over your front teeth and helps to hold your lower jaw in proper alignment, preventing it from sliding back. This helps to keep your tongue and oral tissues forward as well, which keeps the airway open.

You might have seen oral appliances for sale at your local pharmacy. While affordable, these appliances may not fit your mouth properly. This can lead to the appliance falling out of your mouth while you sleep or interfering in your breathing even further. We highly recommend a custom-fit oral appliance. We can create one for you that will fit your mouth perfectly, using high-quality materials, which will help to ensure optimal results.

Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliance therapy provides many significant benefits.
•  The oral appliance is easy to wear.
•  Your movements are not restricted while you sleep.
•  The appliance does not make any noise.
•  The oral appliance is easy to take care of.
•  You can travel easily with an oral appliance. You do not have to worry about transporting a machine.
•  You can finally get the quality sleep you need to wake up feeling rested and refreshed.

When you have sleep apnea, getting a good night of rest might seem impossible. With the right treatment, however, you can finally get the restful sleep you have been searching for. You are finally able to wake up feeling rested, refreshed, and ready to go. For more information on sleep apnea and how we can help, call OHIOSmiles today at (740) 781-0540.
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