In our busy lives, we underestimate the need for a good night’s sleep and the impact that it has on our body and our mind. A good night’s sleep allows us to function at our best level with a clear mind and rested physical state. Unfortunately, most people do not get the rest they need. Some aspects of sleep we can control and some we can not.
Getting a good 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night is important, but there is another component to our sleep problems that is growing at an alarming rate and that is sleep apnea.We all know someone who uses a CPAP machine to treat their sleep apnea. But the first step is understanding what apnea is.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Try and hold your breath repeatedly for a few minutes and see how you feel. Now imagine doing this for 7-8 hours a night. This is what happens when you have what we generally refer to as Sleep Apnea. It is a very dangerous and harmful medical condition that you would probably not be aware of unless your bed partner complained about you choking while you sleep, or your snoring.
There are two main components to sleep breathing problems:
1) Apnea – a complete closure of the airway resulting in a total lack of oxygen flow to the body. You are basically suffocating and only come out of it as the body responds to this lack of oxygen, by choking and gasping for a breath.
2) Hypopnea – a partial closure of the airway resulting in a 30% or greater reduction of oxygen lasting for over 10 seconds.
4 Sleep Apnea Facts to Consider
1) Almost 18% of men and 8% of women have sleep breathing problems
2) 50% of sleep apnea cases are undiagnosed
3) Untreated sleep breathing problems can take 12 years off your life expectancy. When compared to smoking, which will reduce life expectancy by about 7 years, you realize the severity of sleep apnea.
4) Many medical problems like high blood pressure, heart issues, diabetes, and GERD can be related to sleep apnea
How to Treat Sleep Apnea?
CPAP’s (Continuous Passive Airway Pressure) devices are the gold standard of treatment for sleep apnea and work 100% of the time. Unfortunately, they are bulky, invasive, uncomfortable, and only have an estimated 50% compliance rate.
In many cases there is an alternative to CPAP, and that is a dental appliance called a Mandibular Advancement Device. These devices can open the airway by moving the jaw forward and down, and they work well for treating apnea and/or snoring.
As your oral health care provider, dentists are playing a much greater role in evaluating and helping to treat sleep breathing problems. A good night’s rest is crucial to your health, but sometimes it is out of your control. This is not just a matter of your oral health, but making sure your general health is the best that it can be.
If you or a loved one are experiencing sleep apnea or other sleep related breathing problems, be sure to contact our offices at (704) 377-2503 to ask how we can help!