No one wants to be a snorer. It can be an embarrassing trait and a serious inconvenience for your bed partner. However, there are more important reasons to clear up your snoring. It's often a sign that you suffer from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is often conceived of as an inconvenience or an annoyance. You lose some sleep, but that's it. In reality, nothing can be farther from the truth. Sleep apnea poses significant risks to your health and can even prove fatal if left untreated for a long enough period of time. This means diagnosing and treating your sleep apnea is incredibly important. Your long term health may depend on it.
Dr. Scott Greenhalgh is board-certified in sleep medicine and has been trained to diagnose and treat sleep apnea with the latest techniques, ensuring you get the care you need to restore a healthy, restful night’s sleep. Working in coordination with your physician, Dr. Greenhalgh uses a straight-forward approach to create a comprehensive treatment plan just for you.
If you live in the Lakewood area, please call the office of Dr. Scott Greenhalgh at 303-988-9060 today to schedule a consultation.
- What is Sleep Apnea?
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
- Snoring and Other Sleep Apnea Symptoms
- Lifestyle Changes that Can Alleviate Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment
- Contact our Lakewood Sleep Apnea Dentist
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects millions of Americans. It occurs when breathing is blocked or partially blocked during sleep, preventing you from receiving enough oxygen. In order to restore proper breathing, your brain must wake you from sleep. This cycle of interruptions in breathing and waking from sleep can occur hundreds of times a night without you even realizing it is happening.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase your risk of significant health-related problems such as:
- Heart attack
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- High blood pressure
- Gastric reflux
- Heart failure
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine estimates that more than 180 million people experience obstructive sleep apnea, and approximately 75% of these cases are never properly diagnosed.
During obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles and soft tissue in your throat relax, causing your airway to be blocked. This forces the muscles in your diaphragm and chest to work harder to pull in the oxygen you need for a healthy, restorative sleep.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your lungs may not receive the air they need 5 to 50 times in an hour, which can cause irregular heart rhythms and considerably reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs.
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
Sleep apnea can strike just about anyone, but there are a series of risk factors that contribute to the condition. Some of these risk factors can be corrected with lifestyle changes, while others are simply out of your control.
Common sleep apnea risk factors that cannot be controlled include:
- Gender - Males are significantly more likely than women to develop sleep apnea
- Age - The condition is most common in individuals over the age of 30
- Ethnicity - African Americans are more prone to developing obstructive sleep apnea
- Genetics - A family history of sleep apnea increases your risk
- Menopause - Women are more likely to develop sleep apnea after going through menopause
- Neck circumference - Individuals with wider necks or extra tissue surrounding the neck are at greater risk
However, there are also risk factors that can be minimized by changing your behavior. These include:
- Obesity - This is one of the leading causes of sleep apnea, and losing weight can significantly reduce your risk of developing the condition
- Drinking - Excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of sleep apnea
- Medications - Taking certain medications, such as sedatives or sleeping pills, may increase your risk of sleep apnea
- Smoking - Nicotine relaxes your throat muscles, increasing the likelihood that they will collapse and block your airway while you sleep
Snoring and Other Sleep Apnea Symptoms
If you have been told that you tend to snore at night, you have a great deal of company. About 80 million Americans are thought to have this problem, and it is the most common symptom of sleep apnea. Therefore, while you may not think it's worth addressing your snoring problem, failing to do so can potentially have devastating consequences on your long term health.
The vibration of the soft tissues in the back of your throat causes snoring. When you are relaxed in sleep, and especially if you are on your back, the tongue and throat tissue can fall back against the airway and partially close it off. This causes air to pass more quickly through the narrowed passageway. In turn, the increased air speed makes the tissue vibrate, which produces the snoring noise.
While snoring is often a strong indicator that you have sleep apnea, it isn't the only symptom of this condition. Other common sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Morning headaches
- Daytime sleepiness
- Chronic fatigue
- Waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
- Sore throat or dry mouth when you wake up
- Difficulty concentrating
- Short term memory issues
- Reduced sex drive
- Weight gain
Lifestyle Changes that Can Alleviate Sleep Apnea
While most individuals suffering from sleep apnea will require clinical treatments to prevent the airway blockage causing this dangerous condition, it is possible to alleviate mild cases of sleep apnea by making certain lifestyle changes. Regardless of whether Dr. Greenhalgh recommends additional sleep apnea treatment, it's a good idea to make the following changes if you have sleep apnea:
- Lose weight - Overweight individuals have a higher chance for sleep apnea because extra tissue in the back of the throat can relax and restrict airflow in the middle of the night. Losing even 5-10% of bodyweight can have dramatic overall health effects for overweight individuals, including reducing the occurrence of sleep apnea.
- Stop smoking - Smoking is not only detrimental to your overall health, but it can also increase inflammation and cause fluid retention in your throat, both of which contribute to sleep apnea.
- Refrain from alcohol and other sedatives - This includes sleeping pills. Drinking alcohol or taking sedatives at night can relax the muscles in the throat, which contributes to airway blockage.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule - In our over-worked, over-stressed society, it’s easy to get off of your regular routine. Sleep apnea tends to decrease when the body is well rested, so it may be time to skip that late-night TV show and set yourself up for a good amount of sleep.
- Get regular exercise - A good exercise routine has many benefits. You can lose weight and regulate your sleep cycle by expending enough physical energy to feel tired at bedtime. Yoga or cardio workouts can be especially helpful in strengthening the muscles of your airways for better breathing while you sleep.
- Change sleeping positions - Sleeping on your side instead of your back can help reduce the likelihood that your airway will become blocked while you sleep. In addition, elevating your head with additional pillows can improve nighttime breathing.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment
If you are exhibiting signs of sleep apnea, the first step in alleviating the condition is to undergo a diagnostic exam. This can be accomplished by conducting an at-home sleep study that monitors your blood flow, heart rate and respiratory activity while you sleep. You can also undergo a more thorough evaluation at a sleep center.
Once diagnosis is confirmed, Dr. Greenhalgh will create a sleep apnea treatment plan in close coordination with your doctor to maximize results for your specific problem. The goal of sleep apnea treatment is to keep the airway open while you sleep.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Dr. Greenhalgh's preferred treatment method is oral appliance therapy, which uses a custom-crafted oral appliance or mouth guard that will move your jaw into a position which promotes better air flow as you sleep.
Dr. Greenhalgh has had success in improving nighttime breathing by using a selection of oral positioners, such as the TAP III. He also offers a custom-made device called Silent Nite™. It is a pair of transparent tooth trays with a special connector which keeps the lower jaw in a more forward position. It allows you to breathe through the mouth. Silent Nite also allows a little jaw movement during the night, which helps to prevent jaw stiffness in the morning.
By wearing one of these oral appliance devices while you sleep, you can avoid snoring and maintain continuous breathing throughout the night. When you are not repeatedly waking up to get air, your sleep is more restful and you will not feel fatigued all day.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a machine which increases air pressure in the throat to facilitate easy breathing. It has an accompanying line of therapeutic devices such as masks, chin straps, head gear, humidifiers, tubes, and nasal pillow systems. As you sleep, your head and nose are connected to the machine, forcing air into your body in order to keep your airway open.
Many feel it is too uncomfortable. The CPAP machine is noisy and the system can potentially cause some unwanted consequences such as:
- Sore throat
- Skin irritation
Due to these issues, CPAP often results in a poor compliance rate among users of this treatment. For this reason, Dr. Greenhalgh typically recommends oral appliance therapy with his patients.
Contact our Lakewood Sleep Apnea Dentist
Dr. Scott Greenhalgh has over 20 years of experience diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. His board certification in sleep medicine required extensive training in this specialized field, ensuring that he has the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver the best sleep apnea treatments available.
Please contact Dr. Scott Greenhalgh using the form on this page or call 303-988-9060 today to schedule a sleep apnea evaluation. We serve patients in Lakewood, Denver and the surrounding areas of Colorado.