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Alternative Solutions for Sleep Apnea and Snoring So You Can Sleep Better, Dream Bigger, and Be Healthier…
Are you more irritable than normal? Do you wake up in the mornings with dry mouth, headaches, or a sore throat? Have you recently been suffering with extreme daytime fatigue or insomnia? Is your spouse continually complaining about how your snoring is keeping them awake at night?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might want to consider scheduling a consult with a sleep apnea dentist here at Dental Sleep Therapy of New York to see if you are suffering from this very common sleep disorder.
A Guide to Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
and Treatments on Long Island
Sleep Screening Tests and Diagnostic Sleep Studies
Sleep screening is recommended if you have difficulty sleeping, experience poor quality of sleep or feel as if you are not getting a complete rest. This form of testing reveals how much at risk you are of having sleep apnea. It can be done by completing sleep questionnaires or by monitoring overnight oxygen levels and heart rate.
lf you are at risk from obstructive sleep apnea, the next step is to get a definitive diagnosis. This requires a more thorough sleep study, which allows a physician to find out if you are a suitable candidate for treatment and to determine what the best sleep therapy would be for you.
Options for Sleep Studies
There are two options for going through a diagnostic sleep study. This can either involve spending a night in a sleep laboratory or using special medical equipment at home.
1. In-Lab Polysomnography (PSG)
The first option is to take the most comprehensive test available, in a sleep laboratory where overnight testing takes place. Polysomnography can detect electrical brain waves that show all the different sleep levels and REM (rapid eye movement during dreaming) taking place during your night’s sleep.
Polysomnography equipment will monitor record your blood oxygen levels, heart rate, muscle activity, eye movement, brain activity, breathing and airflow through your nose and mouth when sleeping.
2. Home Sleep Tests (HST)
A Home Sleep Test is available if you are unable to attend a sleep lab for PSG testing or when an overnight stay cannot be fitted in. HST is more suitable for the elderly and anyone who is housebound or has a chronic illness.
Home sleep testing requires you to use a diagnostic device overnight when sleeping in your own bed. This device is easy to use and can accurately monitor and record what is happening when you sleep. The results are very similar to what you would get from sleep testing in a laboratory with Polysomnography equipment.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
A full diagnosis for obstructive sleep apnea is only possible after an overnight sleep study. You medical insurance will probably cover the cost of using Polysomnography equipment or taking a Home Sleep Test.
If you think you have a sleep related illness or find out that you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, it is important to get medical advice from your doctor. There is a high chance that you could be right about what you think is a sleep disorder and, if so, you will require some medical treatment or therapy for sleep apnea.
Treatments and Therapies
There are a number of medical treatments, complimentary therapies and self treatment that can be employed when you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Most of them treat sleep apnea with some degree of success.
Placing a pillow over the nose and mouth is not a recommended method for someone with sleep apnea. The following sleep apnea treatments and therapies will help to alleviate symptoms.
1. Self Fitting Dental Appliances
The use of any over-the-counter oral appliance is not recommended. These are not very effective and may have no significant impact on sleep apnea. They also have negative side effects.
Most over-the-counter dental appliances for sleep apnea have to be placed into boiling water before self-fitting. If the fitting is not right, an oral appliance can cause misalignment of the temporal-mandibular joint (TMJ) and jaw stress. Teeth and bite can also be affected by continuous use.
2. Sleeping Medications
The worst aspects of having a sleeping disorder can lead sufferers to try sleeping pills or sedatives. Sleeping pills and sleep medications might relieve some of the symptoms, but they are not a treatment for what is causing sleeplessness or poor quality of sleep.
Some sleeping medications have serious implications for anyone with sleep apnea. These pills and medicines induce sleep by relaxing muscles and can bring on an apnea event during deep sleep and REM sleep.
Sleep apnea occurs when muscles in the jaw and the tongue are at their most relaxed, so the body becomes deprived of oxygen. Taking any form of sleep medication that is relaxing those muscles will therefore make things worst. No medication designed to promote sleep should be taken without first consulting a doctor.
3. Positional Therapy
Sleep apnea is usually most severe when you sleep lying flat on your back. With the help of positional therapy, you can get used to sleeping on your side. This will help when used in conjunction with other sleep apnea treatments and therapies.
Positional therapy will not work in every case of sleep apnea, but it makes sense to change sleeping position if lying on your back is causing a major problem. The therapy involves specially designed sleepwear, wedges and pillows, to make sure you sleep in a better position.
4. Weight Loss and Diet
Not everyone who is overweight will suffer with sleep apnea, and thin people also suffer from it, but there is plenty of evidence to show that there is a link between obesity and sleep disorders.
Losing excess weight is not guaranteed to prevent sleep apnea, but it does help if it means you reach and maintain the recommended weight for your height and frame.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It can safely be combined with any other treatment for a sleep disorder.
Oral appliance therapy makes use of a small dental device made from plastic. This fits into the mouth in the same way as an orthodontic retainer or the type of mouth guard used in sports.
Wearing an oral appliance during sleep allows an air to flow without any obstruction in the throat. It keeps the airway open by preventing the tongue and the soft tissues in the back of the throat from collapsing when muscles relax during sleep. In the majority of cases it prevents snoring.
Who Benefits from Oral Appliance Therapy?
Oral appliance therapy is most suitable for someone with severe sleep apnea who has not responded well to CPAP treatment. It can also be effective on its own for the treatment of snoring and for anyone with mild to medium obstructive sleep apnea, without the need to try CPAP.
Patients who are unsuited to any treatment that involves weight loss, positional therapy and other therapies based on behavior are more likely to respond well to oral appliance therapy.
Where to go for Oral Appliance Therapy On Long Island
Any Board Certified dentist will be able to assist in determining what oral appliance will be most suitable for your specific needs. A dentist and a doctor can work together in providing the right diagnosis and will make sure that you get the correct oral appliance for a sleep-related breathing disorder.
The Process of Getting Oral Appliance Therapy
Before the treatment process can begin, an examination will be required for a full assessment of your requirements. It will also establish the exact fitting of your dental appliance and what adaptations are necessary.
Regular follow-up care will then be necessary, so that checks can be made on the condition of your appliance, your physical response to it and the impact it is having on your sleep apnea.
The Main Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy
- Oral appliance therapy provides non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea
- The appliance itself is soundless and will usually stop the sound of snoring
- The fitting of an oral appliance makes it comfortable to wear and easy to put in place before sleeping
- The size of the appliance is small enough to make it easy to take anywhere when you travel
The Impact of Using an Oral Appliance When Sleeping
An oral appliance is designed to keep the airway open by stimulating muscles in the tongue, by pulling the tongue forward. It also keeps the airway open by preventing the airway becoming blocked by tissues in the throat. This is achieved by the oral appliance holding the lower jaw in place and keeping everything stable.
The physiological changes are as follows:
- The airway is held open when sleeping, by muscles in the front of the neck being pulled forward
- The tongue and lower jaw become more stabilized and muscle tone in the tongue is increased
- The lower jaw, tongue, uvula and soft palate are all moved slightly forward
The Prime Considerations When Fitting an Oral Appliance
All of the following will need to be considered when an oral appliance is being made for you:
- Any co-existing medical issues that have anatomical or physiological implications
- Anatomy of the temporal mandibular joint (TMJ), intra-oral tissues and soft palate, cranial muscles, nerves and tissues, nasal tissues and anatomy of the nose
- Gag reflexes, position of teeth, the bite, amount of space in the mouth and size of the tongue
The Best Type of Oral Appliance
Any individual oral appliance will have to be custom designed by a trained dentist before it can be used as treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. There is no single design for an oral appliance and many different types have been approved by the FDA.
The exact form of your appliance will depend on the severity of your medical condition, how your breathing is being obstructed and the area around the obstruction. It will be made to fit in with the arrangement of your teeth and the anatomy of your lower jaw. It can also be adapted if you wear partial or a full set of dentures.
How You Will Know that Oral Appliance Therapy is Right for You
Following your initial screening, sleep testing, definitive diagnosis of sleep apnea and consultation with a physician, it will be clear whether or not you will benefit from oral appliance therapy.
Excellent results are achieved with this form of treatment for sleep apnea. When you have an oral appliance and use it as prescribed, you will experience a big change in how well you sleep and the quality of sleep.