Sleep is one of the greatest factors in determining our health and well-being. Each year, millions of people are affected by sleep disorders. Untreated, these problems can can cause excessive sleepiness and fatigue, and lead to dangerous conditions that damage the heart.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that interrupts a person’s breathing during sleep. A common warning sign for sleep apnea is snoring. Sleep apnea causes the airway to collapse, blocking or limiting airflow until eventually, the person wakes up with a gasp or snort, moving their jaw and tongue to open the airway. This process happens over and over again, sometimes hundreds of times per night. The result is less than restful sleep, and more importantly, lack of proper oxygen to the brain and body.
What are the Risks?
Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a higher risk of increased blood pressure, heart attack,stroke, depression, and weight gain. Additionally, lifespan is dramatically decreased when sleep apnea is not managed. Studies have also shown that it even affects the sleeping partners of people with sleep apnea.
In children, sleep apnea has been linked to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), mood disorders, bed wetting, learning problems and issues with growth and development. Sleep apnea in children is often due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Suspicion of sleep apnea requires a prompt referral to a pediatric sleep specialist for evaluation.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Sleep apnea can be easily and effectively treated. Dr. Summers works with the sleep providers at The Corvallis Clinic who will review your sleep and medical history. Some people may need an in-lab sleep study at the Samaritan Sleep Center to determine a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. For others, a portable home sleep testis also available. Mild cases of sleep apnea may be treated with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, a change in sleeping position, or abstaining from tobacco, alcohol or other medications.
There are three treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea. The first is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. It is extremely effective in keeping the airway open and restoring normal, uninterrupted sleep. A mask is fit and worn over a person’s mouth or nose (or both) during the night. CPAP therapy has come a long way in the past decade to improve comfort.
However, some people have trouble tolerating CPAP therapy or prefer an alternate treatment. Another option for the treatment of sleep apnea is a custom fit oral appliance. The oral appliance is only worn during sleep and helps to maintain an open, unobstructed airway by keeping the jaw from falling back. Oral appliance therapy should be provided by a qualified dentist like Dr. Summers who has technical skills and knowledge in dental sleep medicine. Due to their effectiveness, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2015 approved oral appliance therapy for all levels of severity of obstructive sleep apnea. For more information about dental sleep medicine, visit the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. Lastly, in some cases, surgery may be an appropriate option. This is typically performed by an ear, nose, and throat doctor.
Take the First Step to a Better Night’s Sleep
If you suspect that you or a loved one has sleep apnea, call our office to schedule a consultation. If you have not previously been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can provide a referral to The Corvallis Clinic Sleep Medicine Department. Dr. Summers and the sleep specialists at The Corvallis Clinic and Samaritan Sleep Centers will help you choose the treatment that is right for you.
After you get a good night’s rest, you’ll be sure to smile again.