What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is caused by the supportive muscles of the soft palate being too relaxed. The uvula, tonsils, and sides of the throat are all affected. This causes the airway to tighten or often close completely. This can cause serious problems for people suffering from the condition and can stop them from breathing while sleeping. Additionally, since this can occur up to 30 times per hour for some people, it can cause sleepless nights.
There are some sleep apnea conditions that are caused by heart problems, strokes, or brain tumors. This is called central sleep apnea and will require medical treatment beyond a mouth guard since it is caused by the brain signals not reaching the muscles properly.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
To diagnose if you have sleep apnea, Dr. Barney starts with your signs and symptoms. If he thinks you have sleep apnea, he’ll seek confirmation with a sleep test. Formerly, this usually had to be conducted at a designated sleep disorder center. While still available, if necessary, using these centers for overnight diagnosis is an imposition on the patient. Dr. Barney prefers home sleep testing. For home sleep testing, he now uses the WatchPAT system, which is small, non-cumbersome, and very effective.
What Are the Types of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is classified by the cause.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)— This is the most common form, occurring when muscles in the throat relax, blocking airflow.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA)— This isn’t caused by a blockage in the throat, but when the brain doesn’t send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea— These patients have a combination of both OSA and CSA.
Sleep Apnea Patient Testimonial
As a shift worker, I had a real problem sleeping, and I was waking up and feeling like I’d run a marathon. I wasn’t rested at all. I came to Dr. Kennth Barney to be fitted for a sleep apnea device and started using it every time I went to bed and adjusted it very slowly. Slowly but surely I started to feel a big difference.
Click below to hear the full testimonial.
Sleep Apnea Vs. Snoring
Snoring and sleep apnea are often grouped together because snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. However, when someone snores, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they suffer from sleep apnea. The causes for snoring can be a number of things, while sleep apnea is a sleep disorder.
So how do you know which you are dealing with? Since sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, it is best to get professional advice. Seeing a Neuromuscular Dentist like Dr. Barney, as well as an ENT doctor, our team can help determine the root cause of your snoring.
What Causes Snoring?
- Weight – Being overweight can cause snoring. Excess fat pushes the tissues inside the mouth and throat closer together, constricting the airways and causing snoring.
- Alcohol – Alcohol consumption can cause snoring because alcohol relaxes the muscles. As the throat muscles relax, the airway closes tighter than is normal.
- Uvula Size – The size of your uvula (pink tissue that hangs down in the back of your mouth) can cause snoring. If it is too long, it blocks the airways when you’re sleeping, causing snoring.
Basically, snoring is caused by anything that blocks the airway in your throat.
Some other factors that can cause sleep apnea include:
- Family history
- Adenoid or tonsil enlargement
- Nasal congestion
What Problems Can Sleep Apnea Cause?
Sleep apnea doesn’t only affect breathing. It is a serious condition that can cause problems for your entire system. It can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Liver problems
- Medication problems
- Chronic fatigue
Sleep Apnea Treatment
As a certified Neuromuscular Dentist, Dr. Barney is qualified to treat sleep apnea and snoring problems. Treatment options will depend on the individual and include lifestyle changes and other medical treatments from ENT specialists. Dr. Barney can eliminate snoring and relieve symptoms of sleep apnea using a mouth guard designed specifically for you. This device opens up the airway by pushing your jaw forward, keeping the surrounding tissues from blocking the air passage.
Here is an interesting article provided by American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine: Drowsy Driving
Is the Mouth Guard a Permanent Solution?
This depends on the individual case. The mouth guard alleviates the symptoms so you can sleep safely and soundly. But some cases of sleep apnea will require surgery or further treatment.
What is WatchPAT?
Dr. Barney uses the WatchPAT diagnostic tool for home sleep testing. The WatchPAT, as its name implies, is worn like a watch. The “watch”is attached to a probe into which you place your index finger. With WatchPAT, there isn’t any need for belts, wires, or nasal cannulas, as with other diagnostic devices. When you get into bed, you simply turn on the WatchPAT device. During thenight it measures the arterial volume changes through your fingertip. It operates on the Peripheral Arterial Tone (PAT). This FDA-approved portable diagnostic device provides very accurate testing for OSA. It is the only home sleep test that measures “True Sleep Time,” rather than total recording time. Plus, it provides complete sleep architecture.