Everyone snores once in a while. If you have a cold, drank a bit too much, or suffer from allergies, you may occasionally snore. But if you snore most nights, or you wake up with a gasping and choking noise, you may be doing more than snoring – you may be suffering from a serious disorder called sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the tissues of the throat collapse or constrict the airway. This causes not only the common sound of snoring, but it also reduces oxygen intake. When the body becomes depleted of oxygen, it will cause you to gasp for breath, and this gasping and choking startles you awake. This cycle can occur hundreds of times a night, yet many sufferers never even realize they have sleep apnea.
For someone with sleep apnea, an interrupted night’s sleep isn’t the only problem. Sleep apnea has been linked to a variety of serious health risks, including heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.
Currently, it’s estimated that 18 million people in the United States have sleep apnea, but only about 10 percent have been diagnosed. They are all at risk for a variety of health problems. But they‘re putting others in danger, too. Sleep-deprived people are constantly tired, and are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel of a car. A sleep-deprived person is as high a risk for causing an accident as someone impaired by excessive alcohol consumption.
We pay close attention to our patients’ health and a sleep apnea screening is a part of our protocol. If we notice signs of sleep apnea, or our patients tell us that they snore, we can prescribe an at-home sleep study. A sleep doctor will read the studies. If the sleep apnea is severe, we will suggest a referral and you may be prescribed a CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure device. If you find you can’t wear it, or if your sleep apnea is mild to moderate, we can create an oral appliance. Our custom oral appliance is worn only while you sleep. It has no machine and no mask so you can talk with it in your mouth, and even drink from a glass. Patients tell us they sleep better than ever – and their bed partners love it too!