Snoring may seem harmless but it is often the harbinger of something much more serious: obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. OSA affects approximately 20% of US adults, of whom about 90% are undiagnosed. It is truly one of our most pressing health concerns as it has a direct effect on several more well-known diseases including hypertension, diabetes, reflux and even fibromyalgia. The following health problems are linked to obstructive sleep apnea:
- High blood pressure. Obstructive sleep apnea contributes to high blood pressure in people who have it. The good news: Some people with high blood pressure who are treated for sleep apnea can cut back or even quit their blood pressure medications.
- Heart disease. We often hear of people dying in their sleep, and for many that is synonymous for a peaceful “slipping away”. Unfortunately, people with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to suffer heart attacks and die in the middle of the night. The wife of NFL legend Reggie White said that untreated apnea was the cause of his death. The actor James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack “in his sleep” was also said to have undiagnosed apnea.
- Type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea is very common among people with type 2 diabetes – up to 80% of diabetics have some obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep problems have been directly correlated with blood sugar regulation, contributing to metabolic syndrome.
- Weight gain. Adding weight raises your risk of sleep apnea, and up to two-thirds of people with sleep apnea are severely overweight. Obstructive sleep apnea can often be cured if you lose enough weight. By the same token many people lose weight simply by treating their sleep apnea. This is made easier by allowing for better blood sugar regulation and increased energy throughout the day.
- Acid reflux. Sleep apnea can cause acid reflux. As the airway closes in deeper sleep, the thoracic muscles begin to work harder, struggling against a closed airway and bringing gastric juices up the esophagus.
- Car accidents. Daytime grogginess can put people with sleep apnea at increased risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. People with sleep apnea are up to five times more likely than normal sleepers to have traffic accidents.
- Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia has also been associated with sleep apnea. Muscle repair takes place in the deeper phases of sleep. Denied this regenerative sleep, the muscles become painful and this becomes a contributing factor to the disorder. Growth Hormone secretion can also be impaired for the same reason, it is only released in the deep phase of sleep. For this reason, sleep apnea should be ruled out in children who are not growing at the normal rate.
Treating Sleep Apnea
A machine commonly referred to as the CPAP has long been the primary mode of treatment for CPAP. For those who can tolerate it, the CPAP is an excellent therapy. However, many people have difficulty with the mask and hoses. An alternative for many sufferers of OSA is an oral appliance.
Fitted by a dentist, working in concert with your doctor, these appliances are small, noiseless and comfortable – and are often covered under medical insurance plans! They open the airway, not by blowing air, but rather by gently guiding the lower jaw forward which then opens the throat for easy breathing, even when fully relaxed.
If you think you suffer from OSA or that an oral appliance is right for you, please contact us at Harbor Hill Dentistry. To discuss sleep apnea Gig Harbor dentists are ready to help. Call us at 253-857-6778 today!