It is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of American adults snore on a nightly basis. While this habit can be disruptive, it does not indicate a health risk. What is concerning is that, of those who snore, 20 to 40 percent have sleep apnea. The difference between the two is significant.
When snoring occurs, it is because airflow is slightly impeded by soft tissues. This is what makes the telltale sounds of snoring. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, involves brief complete blockages. When no air is getting through the airway, no oxygen can get to the brain. Because hundreds of episodes can occur in a night, the cumulative effect of this deprivation can have serious consequences.
Signs of sleep apnea include:
- Waking several times a night
- Frequent morning headaches or sore throat
- Grinding or clenching teeth at night
- Chronic, loud snoring, marked by periodic pauses
- Chronic fatigue during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritability and mood swings
- Feeling as though you "toss and turn" all night
- Waking with a gasp
- Dozing off during the day
If you experience any of these symptoms, a consultation to discuss sleep apnea
therapy could be extremely beneficial to your quality of life. Women who are nearing menopause, and individuals who are overweight have a higher risk of developing this condition, but help is available in our Anderson office.
How sleep apnea is treated
There are two primary ways in which sleep apnea is managed. In addition to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight, medical therapy may be necessary. One of the common treatments prescribed by physicians is CPAP therapy. Patients wear a nasal mask or cannula while they sleep. At the other end is a small air compressor that creates pressure to maintain an open airway.
CPAP therapy can be a valuable tool in treating sleep apnea, especially severe cases. The issue with this approach is compliance. It is estimated that only 20 percent of patients actually use their device for longer than one year.
An alternative to CPAP, when appropriate, is to wear an oral appliance that repositions the lower jaw. Oral appliance therapy opens the airway by moving the tongue into a forward position; it's that simple.
According to statistics, more than 90 percent of patients comply with oral appliance therapy. In some cases, this method is used as an adjunct to CPAP.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, do not wait to schedule an evaluation. Treatment can commence once a sleep study has confirmed the proper diagnosis. For more information, contact our office.