FAQ’s About Sleep Apnea

Do you think that you or your partner may be suffering from sleep apnea? According to the American Sleep Association, sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can occur several times per hour and last for over 10 seconds, causing the sleeper to move out of deep sleep and usually wake up. There are different types of sleep apnea, each with its own causes and symptoms. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment to prevent long-term sleep apnea risks. Keep reading for the most frequently asked questions about sleep apnea and where to begin seeking treatment for sleep apnea.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, as mentioned above, is hallmarked by snoring and pauses in breathing while sleeping. There can be many different reasons for these things to occur. Sleep apnea can be categorized into three different types:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea: The most common form, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway has been blocked, such as from tissue relaxing in the back of the throat.
  2. Central Sleep Apnea: When central sleep apnea (CSA) is present, the brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing.
  3. Mixed Sleep Apnea: Mixed, or complex, sleep apnea involves a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea.

The most common type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when there is an obstruction in the airway. There can be some risk factors that cause this, such as being overweight, having dental issues, enlarged tonsils, or a large tongue. Once the obstruction is cleared, the sleep apnea symptoms subside, and the risk factor of developing further health problems greatly reduces. Treatment for sleep apnea depends largely on what is causing the obstruction to eliminate sleep apnea at its root cause, which makes finding out what the obstruction is extremely important.

Does Snoring Always Mean Sleep Apnea?

Snoring isn’t just an annoying habit that you or your partner has—it is a symptom of a larger issue. Snoring is caused by an obstruction of the airway and, as such, is a major symptom for sleep apnea sufferers. Some snoring can be normal—such as if you are sick, have allergies, or are sleeping on your back—but in most cases, it should be taken seriously.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the muscles and soft tissues in the throat, mouth, or nose relaxing to the point of narrowing the breathing passages. As the airway becomes smaller, breathing becomes more difficult, and the tissues in the back of the throat may begin to vibrate with every breath due to forcing air through the decreased space. These vibrations produce the sound we associate with snoring, which is why it is such a major indicator of sleep apnea being present.

What Are The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can be difficult to realize you are suffering with because the most major symptom—snoring—occurs while you are asleep. Unless you have a partner or family member to alert you of this, you may not have any idea you have it. That is why it is important to know the other symptoms of sleep apnea that can occur during the daytime.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping or choking during the night
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Sore throat or dry mouth after waking up
  • Difficulty remembering and concentrating
  • Increased need to urinate during the night
  • Weight gain
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • The need for a lot of coffee, or naps, during the day
  • Difficulty paying attention at work or school

How Do I Know For Sure If I Have Sleep Apnea?

According to the American Sleep Association, the best way to know for sure whether you have sleep apnea is to have a sleep study called a polysomnogram. During the study, a sleep technologist will monitor you while you sleep. When you arrive for your study, the tech hooks you up to various equipment, which monitors your brain activity, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing patterns while you sleep. The results of the study help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

After you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can seek treatment for sleep apnea with a sleep apnea professional, such as Dr. Gorman. Dr. Gorman will talk with them about their symptoms, review their medical history, and may perform a scan utilizing state-of-the-art dental technology to evaluate possible obstructions. Once he is familiar with the details of their condition, Dr. Gorman will create a personalized treatment plan with the goal of improving their nighttime breathing. This often involves using a custom-fitted dental appliance the patient will wear while sleeping.

If the patient’s sleep apnea is caused by the tongue relaxing in the throat, a tongue-retaining device may be the ideal treatment for maintaining an open airway. Should an abnormal jaw position be causing breathing difficulties, Dr. Gorman may recommend a special device to correct this alignment, such as a mouthpiece or a device strapped around the head. Oral devices used to address sleep apnea are removable and typically resemble athletic mouth guards.

Do I Have To Get A CPAP to Treat Sleep Apnea?

Did you know that roughly 24 million Americans have sleep apnea but aren’t aware they have it, and of those who are aware, most do not get treatment? There are many reasons for this, including the obvious fact that many people are unaware that they suffer from it. But what about those who are aware? One of the major deterrents to getting treatment for sleep apnea can be the image that pops into most people’s heads: The need to wear a huge, loud, uncomfortable CPAP machine.

Luckily, a CPAP machine is not the only treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP machine opens the airways through pressure. This is a band-aid solution for sleep apnea in order to keep the airways open and does not address the actual obstruction that is causing the sleep apnea.

As mentioned, Dr. Gorman can provide a variety of different solutions, depending on what is causing your particular airway obstruction. They can be:

  • Dental surgery
  • Mouthpiece
  • Dental appliance
  • Tongue retaining device
  • Jaw alignment device
  • And much more

Can Sleep Apnea Lead to Other Health Issues?

Yes! Sleep apnea can lead to many other health issues. It is important to learn more about sleep apnea in order to understand how these health issues can arise. When an individual is snoring while they sleep, they are breathing with their mouth open, not through their nose. The proper way to breathe is through the nose, as it acts like a filter and gets clean oxygen through to the lungs and bloodstream.

When there is an obstruction, the body goes into survival mode and breathes through the mouth. Well, what’s the big deal? There is no filter system in the mouth like there is with the nose, which can lead to toxins and lower amounts of oxygen getting to the lungs. All of this can lead to issues such as:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory Disorder
  • Morning Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Memory Loss
  • Lack of Energy
  • Drowsy Driving
  • Excessive Stress
  • Cardiovascular Strain
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Increased Risk for Accidents
  • Weight Gain
  • Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke

Can I Have Sleep Apnea and Not Be Overweight?

Being overweight is a risk factor for sleep apnea; however, a common misconception is that it only happens to individuals who are overweight. This is not true. Many otherwise healthy individuals with normal body weight can suffer from sleep apnea. Your weight, gender, whether you smoke, whether you drink, and other lifestyle decisions can certainly affect your sleep apnea. However, the only true indicator of sleep apnea is whether or not you snore as well as suffer from any of the other symptoms of sleep apnea mentioned above.

Other risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Age
  • Gender (sleep apnea is mostly suffered by males)
  • Smoking habits
  • Drinking habits
  • Use of sleep medications and other sedatives
  • Weight
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Anatomical features of the head and neck

Can Sleep Apnea Go Away On Its Own?

If you or a loved one suffers from mild sleep apnea, there may be some lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your sleep apnea symptoms. However, most cases require treatment for sleep apnea in order to ensure the obstruction is eliminated, or treated, at its source. You can try making certain lifestyle changes before you commit to a treatment plan; however, it is important to put a time limit on it and address your issues as soon as possible.

Some lifestyle changes you can make in order to lessen your sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Sleeping on your side instead of on your back or stomach
  • Quitting smoking to allow for better oxygen in your lungs
  • Quitting drinking for better sleep quality
  • Weight loss to remove pressure from your face and neck
  • Exercise more often to boost oxygen and energy levels
  • Avoid certain medications, such as opioids or other painkillers
  • Treat your nasal congestion or allergies by taking medication to reduce snoring
  • Practice good sleep habits to lessen night awakenings
  • Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and spicy foods for dinner or before bed
  • Allow plenty of time to sleep—a full 8 or 9 hours per night

Treatment for Sleep Apnea with Gorman Health and Wellness

If you or your partner suffers from sleep apnea, or you suspect sleep apnea is present, it is important to seek treatment for sleep apnea as soon as possible. You do not have to wear an uncomfortable CPAP machine. Instead, target your airway’s obstruction at its source and eliminate it for good with the help of a sleep apnea specialist.

Dr. Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.

Together, applying these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.

“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour, allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.

For more information on Dr. Gorman, improving your sleep apnea, and decreasing your chances for dementia, contact us today.

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