Alternatives to Treating Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Jun 01, 2016 09:29AM
By Dr. David Grayson
Imagine trying to sleep but being awakened every few minutes gasping for air, unable to breathe, and then falling back to sleep, only to repeat the cycle a few minutes later. Or imagine lying in bed with your partner, who’s snoring away, sounding like a buzz saw at high volume. You toss and turn, and perhaps move to another location. No matter what, your night’s sleep is ruined. Each of these scenarios is all too common, unfortunately.
The first is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, and it can be life-threatening in some instances. At the very least, because you keep on waking up, it leads to a feeling of sleepiness and tiredness. It can result in a lack of productivity, decrease in the ability to do even simple tasks, and sometimes falling asleep at inopportune or dangerous times, such as driving.
The second, snoring, is even more widespread and well known. But what many people don’t realize is that the snorer is not getting any better quality of sleep than the person who is kept awake by the snoring. And, even more significantly, snoring can be a symptom of OSA.
The gold standard for treatment of OSA is wearing a device known as continuous positive airway pressure, CPAP. But these machines can be cumbersome and uncomfortable, requiring a mask that often feels confining and claustrophobic. Those side-effects often make compliance very low. There is however, an alternative. An oral snore-prevention appliance can treat both snoring and OSA.
Imagine a garden hose in which water travels easily because the hose is straight. If, however, the hose is partially bent, the water flow is decreased, and a rasping sound occurs. If the hose is totally bent, no water can get through it at all. That bent hose is not unlike the windpipe of those who snore and have sleep apnea. As the windpipe collapse more and more, less and less air can get through it. Ultimately, the person wakes up, gasping for breath. This cycle can repeat itself as often as sixty times an hour or even more! Usually the awakening isn’t complete, just an arousal, enough to begin breathing again. But it is enough to disrupt sleep and thus deprive the individual of adequate restorative sleep.
An oral snore-prevention appliance works by enabling the lower jaw to be moved forward and locked into place. This moving of the jaw prevents the collapse of the airway, preventing snoring and apnea. And when the appliance is removed in the morning, the jaw can move freely and normally, with no difficulties at all.
There are many such appliances available. However, to insure proper fit and treatment, it is best to have the appliance made by a competent dentist who has an understanding of both the cause and treatment of apnea. Further, to get a proper diagnosis of OSA, it is necessary to see a sleep physician and most likely have a sleep study performed. If you or someone you love is losing sleep due to these common conditions, seek the help of a skilled professional.
For more information about sleep apnea, snoring and oral appliances, contact the author at [email protected] or call 973-984-8020.