Are you tired of being tired? Is snoring adversely affecting your life? Though it might seem unusual to talk to a dentist about your sleeping habits, Chicago dentist Dr. Gerilyn Alfe has years of experience providing patients with options for sleep apnea treatment.
Sleep apnea isn’t just about loud snoring or consistent fatigue. If left untreated, it can be deadly. Don’t put your health at risk: Call Chicago Smile Spa today at 773-348-2704 to learn more about sleep apnea treatment options. Dr. Alfe serves patients throughout Greater Chicagoland, including communities like Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and more.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Patients with sleep apnea have episodes where they stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. This can happen hundreds of times a night, preventing you from experiencing deep sleep.
Snoring is one of the most obvious early indicators of sleep apnea. This means that not only is your body keeping you from a good night’s rest, your bed mate and even people in adjoining rooms could be kept awake as well.
While most people who suffer from sleep apnea do snore, not all people who snore suffer from sleep apnea. Snoring happens when there is a partial blockage of your airway, causing a muffled sound due to throat vibrations. When lying on your back especially, your tongue can fall toward the back of your mouth, thereby causing a breathing obstruction.
Though some of the early symptoms might seem innocuous, sleep apnea puts sufferers at risk for some severe health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Increased heart attack and stroke risk
- Weight gain or inability to lose unwanted weight
- Acid reflux or GERD
- Anxiety and depression
- Memory loss and inability to concentrate
- Tooth grinding
It has even been shown to increase the risk of premature death. This doesn’t even take into account how snoring, choking, or gurgling can constantly wake up the bed partner of a sleep apneic, thereby making the bed partner also sleep deprived. A condition known as “secondary snoring” has been researched and has been shown to cost the bed partner, on average, 1.5 hours of sleep loss each night! Snoring has also been shown to be a leading cause of divorce.
Even if you don’t snore, you may have some form of sleep apnea. Based on an average 6-7 hours of sleep being normal for adults, some questions to ask yourself (or a loved one) are:
- How much caffeine do you need throughout the day to stay alert?
- Do you feel well rested when you wake in the morning?
- Do you feel the need to nap during the day on a regular basis?
- Do you use your weekends or vacations to “catch up” on lost sleep?
- Do you often feel sleepy while sitting and reading?
- Do you sometimes fall asleep while watching TV?
- Do you fall asleep when you are a passenger in a car, bus, train or plane?
- Have you ever dozed off while driving?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) is one type of sleep apnea where the airway is blocked by any obstruction (tongue, tonsils, large amount of tissue in the uvula area, etc). Depending on the cause and severity of the obstruction, a dental appliance can work very well to alleviate this and allow the patient to breathe more easily throughout the night.
In some cases, sleep apneics will wake themselves up completely and in other cases, they will move from deep sleep to lighter sleep. These are the people who tell us that they sleep at least 6-8 hours/night yet they never feel rested. Sometimes they also report feeling the need to “catch up” on their sleep on the weekends. The reality is that an adult should feel very well rested after sleeping 6-8 hours/night and if you are not, you are probably not getting sufficient deep sleep throughout the night.
Ultimately, if you get six to eight hours of sleep a night and still feel tired when you wake up, you’re probably not getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Persistent daytime fatigue is another common symptom of sleep apnea, and it could mark the beginning of a host of serious problems.
Sleep Apnea: Who Suffers?
Most experts agree that even at 15 million sleep apneics identified, this has been an under-diagnosed condition.
Some factors that increase your risk for sleep apnea:
- Gender; more males than females suffer with sleep apnea
- Deviated septum
- Large, scalloped tongue
- Males with a neck size greater than 17 inches and females with a neck size greater than 16 inches…and this can be from either fat or from muscle.
- Childhood history of asthma and/or allergies
- Orthodontic (braces) treatment, especially as a child
- Large tonsils and/or adenoids that have not been removed
- Difficulty breathing through the mouth during the day and/or night
- Tongue/mouth jewelry/piercings
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Partial or complete tooth loss (edentulism)
There are two questionnaires that we have all our patients fill out, regardless of whether they discuss their sleep (or lack of it) with us. These are the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (which is filled out by the patient) and the Sleep Observer’s Questionnaire (which is filled out by the patient’s bed partner). You can find these, along with all our other patient forms, on our website under Patient Forms.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
If you or a loved one suffers from snoring or tiredness throughout the day, please find a sleep center in Chicago to undergo a sleep study. When you stay overnight for the study, trained physicians will monitor multiple physical signs while you sleep, including blood pressure, the quantity and quality of your rest, and more.
Dr. Alfe has forged strong relationships with a number of sleep specialists in the Chicago area, including Dr. Lisa Wolfe at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. There are also a number of companies now offering convenient at-home sleep testing.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Should the sleep study return a diagnosis of sleep apnea, visit our Chicago dentist immediately to begin exploring treatment options. Recommended treatment will vary based on the severity and cause of the apnea, as well as patient preference.
Many patients have experienced significant relief from apnea symptoms with a wide range of dental mouth guards and other oral appliances. Orthotics can adjust the position of the jaw and other parts of the airway during sleep for optimal breath flow.
Sleep apnea devices Dr. Alfe commonly recommends include:
- SomnoMed MAS
- Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP)
- SUAD™ appliance
- Oral/Nasal Airway System (OASYS)
- NTI™ nightguard, for mild cases of sleep apnea
If you’ve already been diagnosed with sleep apnea and you’ve received a recommendation for treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device or surgery, you might be looking for a less invasive alternative. While an orthotic will not usually provide the same level of correction as those other treatments, for many patients it is a viable, convenient, and comfortable option.
If you’re one of the estimated 18 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea, you stand to lose more than just sleep. Don’t let this potentially fatal disorder wreak havoc on your health: Please contact Chicago Smile Spa or call 773-348-2704 today to schedule a sleep apnea examination. Dr. Alfe serves patients in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and other neighborhoods of Chicago.