It's Not Just Snoring: The Dangers of Sleep Apnea and How We Can Help

Loud snoring is a hallmark sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition that affects more than 18 million adults in the United States. But its consequences go well beyond keeping your bedmate awake. Sleep apnea can also severely impact your health, increasing your risk for such issues as high blood pressure, a heart attack, diabetes, and depression.

At South County Sleep Solutions in Newport Beach, CA, Dana Rockey, DMD specializes in educating patients about sleep apnea, and screening and treating this condition. He has helped countless patients manage this condition and resume restful sleep. Dr. Rockey offers the following sleep apnea primer. 

Sleep apnea 101

Officially classified as a sleep disorder, sleep apnea is more accurately defined as a breathing disorder. When we discuss sleep apnea here, we’re referring to the most common of three forms of this condition, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, the soft tissues at the back of your throat collapse, blocking your airways. When this occurs, your brain is deprived of much-needed oxygen and rouses you so that you clear the airways again.

These apnea moments of blocked airflow can last from a few seconds to several minutes. When your oxygen levels drop to a certain low point due to a lack of air, your brain wakes you up, so you resume breathing. This can happen dozens of times every hour, and each time it happens, your brain wakes you enough so that you can breathe. This repeated waking not only leads to a lack of sleep and daytime fatigue, but it can negatively impact your health in many other ways, as well. Along with those previously mentioned, these include a greater risk for fatty liver disease, dry mouth, and headaches.

Who is at risk?

People who are overweight are more likely to have sleep apnea. Also, alcohol, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to your risk. Those born prematurely, or who have certain types of genetic disorders may have a higher propensity for developing sleep apnea too. 

Screening for sleep apnea

Dr. Rockey starts by taking an extensive health history for each patient and conducting a thorough chair-side clinical exam. This includes a blood pressure test and an evaluation of the size of the patient’s tongue. Patients are also referred to us from physicians who have conducted home sleep tests, as well as sleep labs, that have done overnight testing.

Keep in mind that my focus is screening, education, and Treating sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is often treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (C-PAP) device. A C-PAP device is a mask that fits over your nose and mouth; it’s attached to a machine that blows air into your airways to keep them open as you sleep so you don’t keep waking up.

However, many people find a C-PAP device extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. At South County Sleep Solutions, Dr. Rockey can provide you with an alternative. He can custom fit you with a comfortable oral appliance that adjusts the position of your jaw to help keep your airway open while you sleep. This desirable option is available, provided it’s in the best interest of the patient, as dictated by the board-certified sleep physician who has evaluated their sleep test.

This oral device is similar to a mouthguard or retainer. It works by positioning your lower jaw and tongue in a way that makes it easier for you to breathe while you sleep. Patients like this device because it’s quieter, easier to wear, and more portable than a C-PAP device.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, or if you’ve already received a sleep apnea diagnosis and would like an alternative to the C-PAP device, call or request an appointment online with South County Sleep Solutions. Dr. Rockey specializes in screening and treating sleep apnea related to constricted airways. 

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