WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA AND HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM SNORING?
When someone makes a snoring sound during sleep, it is due to the vibration of some tissue or fluid in the air passage. That is why when you have allergies or a cold you may snore. Although snoring could be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, they are different.
Sleep apnea is a breathing event where the person is getting reduced or no airflow into their lungs for at least 10 seconds. This interruption when frequent or long can cause a reduction of necessary oxygen to the body.
They are trying to breathe, but something is stopping the air from reaching the lungs. This stoppage can be anywhere along the air passage; from a severely deviated nasal septum to polyps on the vocal cords.
Another illustration of the difference between simple snoring and sleep apnea is to pinch your nostrils and at the same time try to breathe through your nose.
At about the 8th or 9th second of doing this, most people will get a little lightheaded and feel pressure building up inside their chest.
If this happens often enough, this can lead to excessive daytime tiredness (falling asleep while driving), cardiovascular disease, depression, and acid reflux to name just a few.
These apnea events, among other things, are what a sleep study determines. The number of events divided by the number of hours slept gives the number of apnea events per hour. Mild apnea is between 5 and 15 events per hour. Moderate is 15 to 30 and severe is above 30.
The greater the number, the greater the deleterious effects this has on the heart, blood vessels, and brain. Thus, untreated obstructive sleep apnea shortens lives, besides reducing the quality of life.
The obstruction can be treated in four ways: weight reduction, surgery, CPAP (short for continuous positive air pressure), or an oral device. Although each has its place in treatment, oral devices for the majority of mild to moderate adult sleep apnea patients are the most tolerated.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recognizes the use of an oral appliance in their guidelines. The guideline gives the treating sleep physician the leeway to recommend either CPAP therapy or an oral device.
Studies show that although both are effective, more patients use the oral device than CPAP on a consistent, long-term basis.
Two simple illustrations will help illustrate the way an oral device works. First make a snoring sound. Next stick your tongue out and hold it in place with your teeth. In that position, try to snore.
Either it will be lessened, or you cannot do the snore. That is because for most mild to moderate apnea patients it is the ability of the tongue to engage part of the airway that causes the obstruction. You can also do this same trick by jutting your jaw forward and try to snore.
This is why in CPR you perform a head tilt chin lift maneuver to open an unconscious patient’s airway.
There are over 125 FDA approved dental devices for snoring or sleep apnea disorders on the market. Contact Jeremy J. Abbott, DDS today to find out if a dental appliance is appropriate for your apnea.