Snoring? Sleep Apnea?

added on: July 8, 2020

A good night’s sleep…

That doesn’t sound like something that should be difficult for American adults. After all, with our busy schedules and non-stop list of to-do’s all day, you’d think sleep would be the easiest thing we do in a 24-hour period.

Yet, for an estimated 1 in 3 adults (ages 18 – 60), they get insufficient sleep on a regular basis. This is according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

In the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, estimates showed that more than one-third of Americans (in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia) are getting less than the recommended 7 or more hours of sleep per night. (https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html)

The document cites “Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.”

Tossing and turning in times of high stress, which our nation (and the globe) are enduring, is common. Worries and anxiety can be hard to just turn off when our heads hit the pillow. However, for many adults, sleep problems can be due to factors beyond day-to-day stresses.

Sleep quality and duration can be greatly compromised by a number of conditions or disorders. These problems can interfere with the level of sleep needed on a regular basis, namely REM sleep. It is the REM (rapid eye movement) level of sleep that helps keep the body functioning properly.

Obstacles to quality sleep can include:

Sleep environment – This includes, for example, sleeping in a room full of electronics, blue-light presence, day-light, disruptions from noises or motion, caffeine or medications, or sleeping on an uncomfortable surface.

Circadian rhythm disruptions – This can occur from recurrent patterns of sleep disturbance, often due to factors such as jet lag or shift work. It can also occur when the body is not releasing adequate melatonin (which is a hormone manufactured in the brain that signals when it’s time to sleep and wake up).

Narcolepsy – This is a medical condition that causes extreme daytime sleepiness combined with muscle fatigue and weakness.

Restless Leg Syndrome – This condition causes a “crawling” sensation beneath the skin of the lower legs with an uncontrollable urge to move move the legs. Symptoms are usually worse at night.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – In this condition, the airway collapses during the sleep cycle. This prevents normal breathing, which causes lack of oxygen to the brain as well as prevention of deep sleep.

Good sleep quality is more important to your health than merely helping you get through the day without craving a nap.

Quality sleep involves 5 – 6 cycles of various sleep stages over a 7 – 9 hour period. Each cycle is different from the last and serves a different purpose. As sleep progresses, more time is spent in the most beneficial stage – REM sleep.

REM stages of sleep allows the body and brain to quiet, the body temperature to lower, and the heart rate to slow in preparation for nightly maintenance and repair. During this phase, the brain undergoes ‘housekeeping’ of sorts for resetting its systems for the next day’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Each time a person experiences a sleep arousal or is pulled out of the deep stages of sleep, they miss out on the rejuvenation the body and brain need to achieve and maintain optimal health.

Obviously, the importance of good sleep is incontestable. And, apparently, your sleep can be altered in a negative way through a number of issues. One that is common, OSA (sleep apnea), can easily be remedied for many who suffer from this problem.

Data published in the American Journal of Epidemiology estimates that 26 percent of American adults between the ages of 30 – 70 years have sleep apnea. (https://aasm.org/rising-prevalence-of-sleep-apnea-in-u-s-threatens-public-health/)

Sleep apnea translates to pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can occur hundreds of times each night, with each lasting for up to a minute. When the heart and brain are deprived of sufficient oxygen for these periods over and over throughout the night, you have the makings of some serious health problems.

People who have sleep apnea endure daytime fatigue, lack of alertness, reduced energy, nodding off easily (even behind the wheel), feeling hungry more often, and being more accident prone. It can also lead to higher risks for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, sleep apnea can lead to obesity, and vice versa. For obese people, there is a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.

If you snore heavily, beware. This is often a precursor to sleep apnea. Heavy snorers also have a higher risk of developing gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD) and periodontal (gum) disease due to open-mouth breathing throughout the night.

For those who suspect (or have been told) they snore loudly or are not breathing throughout the night, there are typically two obstacles to overcoming these serious problems.

1). People fail to get properly diagnosed. There is a dread that proper diagnosis requires spending the night in a sleep center, hooked up to a slew of electrodes.

2) People assume that a diagnosis of sleep apnea will require them to sleep in a CPAP device. This ‘contraption’ often consists of a mask that has a hose attached which connects to a fan. The fan supplies air that pushes through the hose and moves into the airway passages. Unfortunately, compliance of wearing sleep apnea devices is estimated at 50 percent. The reasons range from noisiness, not being able to move around in bed, embarrassment, and feeling claustrophobic.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome the obstacles of both 1 and 2. First, sleep centers are much more efficient and streamlined these days. However, some people are also good candidates for at-home sleep studies. These devices are mailed directly to the patient’s home, easy to use, and effectively measure sleep apnea and, if it exists, the level of sleep apnea.

More good news… the issue of treatment may not require you to wear a CPAP device. For people who have mild to moderate levels of sleep apnea, a small, custom-made oral appliance may be an effective solution.

A specially-trained dentist may have the ability to detect blockages in airway passages. However, a neuromuscular dentist has advanced training to detect these blockages AND all aspects that contribute to these blockages.

In our Shelby Township dental office, Dr. Barbat is a highly-trained neuromuscular dentist who has received some of the most extensive training in sleep apnea therapy in the U.S. Additionally, her dental office features highly-advanced technology to image the structures involved in airway flow. This includes cone beam imaging, which provides intricate views of airway passages. It’s to no surprise that some patients come from out-of-state for her care.

When it comes to treatment, not all oral appliances are alike. There is a significant difference in what one dentist may fit to you while you’re reclined in a treatment chair, and our properly-contoured appliances. With advanced skills, Dr. Barbat designs oral appliances based on factors that can make the difference between an effective device and one that “helps” somewhat.

With all this information, how do you determine what’s right for you?

Dr. Barbat offers a free consultation for sleep apnea and snoring sufferers (or those who suspect they have these problems). During this time, she’ll discuss the process to provide a proper diagnosis to determine IF you have sleep apnea and, if so, what level of apnea you have.

Call 586-739-2155 to schedule this private, no-charge consultation or tap here to begin.