Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder in which you actually stop breathing for potentially long periods of time, and possibly many times during the night. When you have sleep apnea, your body doesn’t get the oxygen and rest it needs to restore and rebuild itself, which is why you don’t feel rested in the morning.
Technically speaking, if you have sleep apnea, you actually don’t rest while you sleep. Not fully. Not well. The lack of good sleep can have disastrous effects on your health and raises the risk for life-threatening events, such as heart attack and stroke.
Why does sleep apnea have such a profound impact on your health? The “apneas” (pauses) in your breathing that take place while you sleep can last from 10-20 seconds each. However, they could last a great deal longer.
In severe cases, you may have 30 or more apneas per hour. No wonder you’re groggy in the morning.
Dana J. Rockey, DMD, is our sleep specialist at South County Sleep Solutions and Prescott Sleep Solutions. He helps diagnose and treat sleep apnea in the comfort and privacy of his offices in Newport Beach, California, and Prescott, Arizona.
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may wonder what your long-term prospects are. Though cases vary by individual, for most of the 18 million adults in the United States with sleep apnea, it’s a chronic and permanent condition. Here’s how to manage it.
Most people with sleep apnea have a variation called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). When you have OSA, something about your anatomy interferes with the continuous movement of oxygen into your lungs while you sleep by blocking your airway.
Anatomical causes of OSA include:
Dr. Rockey examines your mouth, nose, head, and neck to uncover the causes of your OSA.
Obesity is one of the prime causes of sleep apnea because the excess fat and weight around your face, throat, and neck compresses your airway. That’s why an effective lifestyle change is to add more exercise into your routine and lose weight.
Anything that interferes with your breathing can worsen your sleep apnea. Some other lifestyle recommendations include:
If you’re overweight, our team may recommend healthy lifestyle changes that help you shed the excess weight, strengthen and tone your muscles, and improve your sleep apnea.
Even if losing weight is part of your plan to manage your sleep apnea, you need to start breathing better now, not months from now. You may benefit from a number of interventions that make it easier for you to breathe while you’re asleep.
The least invasive treatment for sleep apnea is a custom-designed oral appliance that you wear while you’re sleeping. The device gently and comfortably pushes your jaw forward and holds your tongue in place so that your airway remains open all night long. An oral appliance is easy to incorporate into your nightly routine for lifelong relief from sleep apnea.
Although continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are the best-known treatment for OSA, compliance is low. Anywhere from one-third to half of sleep apnea patients either discontinue CPAP or never fill their prescription for it.
Unlike an oral appliance, most CPAP machines require you to wear a mask or another device. Some downsides cited by patients about CPAP include:
However, if you try CPAP and don’t like it, it’s important to not quit treatment altogether without investigating alternative treatments. Untreated sleep apnea is extremely dangerous. Possible alternatives to CPAP would include an oral appliance or laser therapy.
Another form of therapy that Dr Rockey performs to aid in the treatment of sleep apnea is known as NightLase. Here, Dr Rockey uses the Fotona LightWalker laser which has two specific forms of laser light energy known as Neodymium Yag and Erbium Yag.
During the procedure, this light energy is exposed to oral tissues such as the soft palate, uvula and tongue, to help shrink and tighten the tissue tone. This helps reduce the tendency to fall back into the throat and close off the airway while we sleep. The procedure takes less than an hour to perform and is done as a series of treatments three weeks apart. Results can be immediate and continuously develop over the time of treatment.
This procedure has been performed in Europe for 20 years and is gaining popularity here in America. The goal is to reduce the nighttime obstruction which leads to an improvement in air flow and sleep quality. It is a non-invasive and non-surgical form of treatment that is very well accepted by patients.
If you have severe sleep apnea, the NightLase treatment may allow for patients to not have to use a CPAP form of therapy which so many patients struggle to accept. What is showing promise is a combination therapy consisting of the NightLase procedure and oral appliance therapy together to provide significant improvements in breathing and sleep quality.
Start breathing continuously throughout the night to preserve your energy, your health, and your life. Call us at 949-558-0554 in Newport Beach, California, or 928-235-6925 in Prescott, Arizona, for a sleep apnea evaluation and treatment, or use our online message form.