Most days, you wake up in the morning with a headache and tight neck and shoulders feeling like you’ve been asleep for all of five minutes. You make it through your day exhausted and functioning at half capacity – not to mention your short-term memory is suspect at best lately. You wonder: “How much longer can I keep this up”?
Does this sound like you? Are you having chronic trouble engaging in conversation and maintaining productivity due to exhaustion? If you’ve been justifying your tiredness every day and you’re running out of excuses, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea refers to a condition that causes breathing to stop while asleep. It occurs when the airway is blocked by throat tissue or when the brain does not receive the impulse to breathe. These two forms of apnea are referred to as being either central or obstructive.
Obstructive apnea is most common in patients who are overweight due to the fact that fat deposits around the neck press against the airway when the throat muscles are relaxed. This significantly reduces the amount of air that can pass through the airway, causing interruptions in sleep and severe snoring. Although patients with apnea often don’t necessarily recall having disturbed sleep, continuous restlessness through the night due to lack of oxygen does not allow the patient to enter deep levels of sleep.
Deep levels of sleep that occur during REM is when the body is doing its restorative work on the body and brain – cleaning plaque from the brain, healing injuries, and integrating the previous day’s experiences. Rest supports our capacity to remember things and solve problems with minimal stress. We have greater capacity for restraint, patience and learning when we have had adequate rest.
Although some people believe that rest is more important for children than adults, we think that point is debatable. It is true that rest promotes growth in children and that their sleep habits should take priority wherever possible – but we think you need the rest just as much.
Adults should not underestimate the need for seven to nine hours of sleep at night, despite it being a tall order on busy days. Construction workers working at heights, operators of heavy equipment and civilians driving on our shared roadways are all examples of potentially tragic activities that require alertness and special awareness to perform safely. Chronically tired people are more likely to cause a safety incident at work or in their community, get injured themselves, or act irrationally to common challenges due to their own rigidity and frustration.
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Treating Sleep Apnea
In order to treat sleep apnea, it must first be diagnosed by means of a sleep study. Some sleep clinics require you to be observed while sleeping at their facility while other tests can be completed at home. Once your dentist has determined the cause and severity of your apnea, several treatment options may be available.
Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machines are the costliest of the apnea treatments available, though it does have an excellent success rate. These machines gently blow air into the airway through a mask to prevent the tissues in the mouth from dropping over it.
Your dentist may suggest a custom oral appliance to wear at night that will change the positioning of the jaw to create more tension in the tissues of the throat in order to prevent drooping. Where the tongue’s position while at rest
is the culprit behind apnea, a tongue restraining device may be suggested in order to keep the tongue in place. We are proud to offer Vivos® and Prosomnus® dental appliances – ask your dental professional for details.
What Should I Do?
If you suspect that you are experiencing sleep apnea, begin by tracking your symptoms in a journal. If you sleep with a partner, have them report on your snoring or download an app to track the frequency and duration of your snoring at night. Record all areas that are sore, even if it is ears, jaw, temples or other seemingly unrelated part of the body.
If you wake up with headaches and jaw or ear pain, you could be experiencing bruxism, which is the condition of clenching and grinding your teeth against each other in your sleep. This can contribute to your headache symptoms and your dentist will surely be on the lookout for signs that point to bruxism or well as sleep apnea.
Book an appointment to see your dentist to go over your journal of symptoms and concerns. Your dentist will evaluate your condition and recommend a plan of action to address it.
It should be noted that bruxism and sleep apnea are not exclusive to adults – children can also develop these conditions.
If you have questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our clinic today.
Bellevue Dental Group
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