At times, stress or travel can impact our ability to get a good night’s sleep and feel rested and alert the next day. However, the quest for a consistently good quality of sleep is getting harder for American adults to come by.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA): “In 1910, the average adult American slept nine hours a night. Since then the average has dropped steadily. Most sleep physicians believe that the average adult needs eight to eight-and-a-half hours of sleep a night, with seven hours being the minimum for almost everyone. Nonetheless, surveying by the Centers for Disease Control shows that the percentage of Americans between 25 and 64 who sleep six hours or less a night increased from 20 to 25 percent in 1985 to 30 percent in 2004.”
Like dealing with headaches, some Americans pursue better sleep by reaching for a pill. And, why not? The TV commercials for OTC sleep aids show sleep-deprived subjects waking with a smile, stretching to show what a restful night of sleep they’d just had.
For some people who have occasional (note the word “occasional” here) insomnia, these pills can be helpful. Some may be able to relax tense muscles or ease temporary anxiety. However, these medications are not formulated to overcome the rigors the body endures throughout the night as a result of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea
causes repetitive pauses in breathing, some that can last up to a minute. These can occur hundreds of times per night. These interruptions in air intake deprive the brain with sufficient oxygen while you sleep. This interferes with the brain’s ability to go through the nightly repair and rebooting cycles they are designed to perform.
Research now knows that the brain is far from ‘at rest’ while we sleep. Certain parts of the brain are very active during sleep, performing important ‘housekeeping’ tasks, removing unhealthy accumulations and regulating certain hormones that keep the body functioning properly.
For example, sleep helps to balance appetite levels by regulating certain hormones that affect feelings of hunger and fullness. Sleep deprivation disrupts hormonal balances that make you feel the need to eat more. Of course, this can lead to weight gain, which is a common side effect of sleep apnea.
While weight gain is an unhealthy side effect, others can be deadly. Sleep apnea
has been linked to a number of serious health risks. For drivers behind the wheel, it is said to be more dangerous than drunk driving. Some of other health risks include:
STROKE: Sleep apnea is more common in people who have had a stroke. The risk for having a stroke increases by the severity of sleep apnea. Stroke is 3 times more likely in males who have moderate to severe sleep apnea.
HEART HEALTH: Sleep apnea has been shown to increase blood pressure by 37 percent. Sleep apnea increases the risk for coronary artery disease by 30 percent and cardiac arrhythmias by 54 percent. Moderate to severe sleep apnea increases the risk for congestive heart failure by 76 percent. People with sleep apnea have a 30 percent greater risk for heart disease as well as sudden death.
OBESITY RISK: Weight gain and difficulty losing weight can be attributed to sleep apnea. This is because the hormones that regulate hunger and the feeling of fullness are compromised due to sleep apnea, which leads to difficulty in losing weight. Sixty percent of obese men and 50 percent of obese women have sleep apnea. An estimated 75 percent of sleep apnea patients weigh 130 percent of their ideal weight.
MENTAL HEALTH: Untreated sleep apnea can cause anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, reduced attention span, moodiness, and poor judgement. Daytime sleepiness leads to higher incidences of motor vehicle accidents, reduced work efficiency, impaired concentration, and slow reaction time.
SNORING: When people snore, most bed partners end up sleeping in separate bedrooms.
SEXUAL HEALTH: Sleep apnea contributes to a loss of libido (by decreasing blood flow).
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease): This occurs in 60 percent of people who have sleep apnea.
DIABETES: More than 30 percent of type 2 diabetics have sleep apnea.
BLADDER HEALTH: Sleep apnea can interfere with urinary hormone regulation, resulting in the need to urinate more frequently at night.
OVERALL HEALTH: Untreated sleep apnea can result in higher medical expenses.
And it’s not just adults who are at risk. The American Sleep Apnea Association states: “Studies have suggested that as many as 25 percent of children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may actually have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and that much of their learning difficulty and behavior problems can be the consequence of chronic fragmented sleep.”
In the past, sleep apnea has been treated through the use of bulky, noisy and often uncomfortable C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices. While effective in pushing air into airway passages during sleep, consistent usage by those prescribed with C-PAP therapy is low. Fortunately, an alternative is available for people who have mild to moderate levels of Sleep Apnea
Certain FDA-approved oral appliances are about the size of a mouth guard. These are custom-fitted to the contours of your mouth and do not interfere with sleep. They are designed to help adjust the jaw so your throat is more open during sleep. Rather than force air into your throat, oral appliances make air intake, on your own, easy.
A sleep study will confirm if, indeed, you suffer with sleep apnea. It will also show the degree of sleep apnea you have. For severe levels, a CPAP device is advised. However, CPAP is simply not a practical solution for many individuals. An oral appliance, custom-fitted and properly adjusted, may be a better alternative.
According to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, “Oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A custom-fit oral sleep appliance can improve your sleep, restore your alertness and revitalize your health.”
They also state the advantages as:
• Easy to wear
• Convenient for travel
• Easy to care for
Unfortunately, many cases of sleep apnea go undiagnosed. An estimated 22 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea with 80 percent of people with moderate to severe sleep apnea going undiagnosed. Snoring is common for sleep apnea sufferers, although some people make no noise at all during sleep. Others may assume their snoring alone is the disruptive factor to their sleep.
In our Shelby Twp dental office
, we have had excellent success working with patients who have been diagnosed with heavy snoring and/or sleep apnea. Although some dentists offer the devices as an add-on to dental services, this is no place for a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s important to understand that these appliances can vary a great deal based on the knowledge and skills of the dentist fitting it to your unique oral contours.
As a neuromuscular dentist
, I bring a unique level of skills to the diagnosis and treatment process. Too, our Macomb County dental office utilizes the advantages of advanced imaging technology
, including Cone Beam 3D. These views offer intricate views of airway passages and oral contours so your sleep appliance is highly effective and comfortable.
Begin with a free, no obligation consultation appointment to have your questions answered thoroughly. Call 586-739-2155
or tap here
to begin. You may also wish to complete a brief Sleep Questionnaire at: Sleep Questions