Sleep apnea has less effect on your sleep than it does on your waking life. Sleep apnea can cause you to have difficulties at work, cause frequent headaches, dry mouth and sore throat, prevent you from thinking clearly, and can even put you in serious danger, because sleep apnea sufferers tend to nod off at inopportune times, such as when driving a car.
It also makes you snore like a jalopy without a muffler, disturbing the sleep of others. In fact, that’s one of the most common reasons people come into our practice seeking a sleep apnea diagnosis and if necessary, treatment. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard something like, “My spouse is tired of sleeping on the couch (he/she says she can hear me snoring there, too)…”
Your dentist at Really Smile (conveniently located in Carmel, IN and serving all Indianapolis) can provide you with an accurate diagnosis, and get you the help you need.
How Does A Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?
If you have a complex problem (such as central sleep apnea, which is an issue with brain signals failing to reach the respiratory muscles), we have partnerships with sleep specialists in the area who can provide solutions.
However, most sleep apnea cases are the type known as obstructive sleep apnea, which your dentist can treat with a specialized piece of equipment called an oral appliance. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by your tongue and oral tissues essentially “falling out of place” while you sleep, obstructing the normal flow of air that your body and brain need to function properly. An oral appliance is a device that is similar to an athletic mouthguard and is worn while you sleep. The oral appliance keeps your tongue and oral tissues in the right placel this prevents the obstruction and keeps the airway open.
An oral appliance is custom made specifically for your mouth. You will find it very comfortable to wear, especially if you have been treating your sleep apnea with a CPAP machine (which requires the use of an uncomfortable face mask and a loud air compressor which can disrupt the sleep you need to function normally).
Is There Anything I Can Do to Address My Sleep Apnea Symptoms?
There is a strong connection between sleep apnea and lifestyle. By changing a few bad habits, you can see a significant drop in the frequency and severity of your symptoms, especially in combination with an oral appliance.
Sleep On Your Side
It isn’t the most common way people sleep, but if you sleep on your back (in the supine position), it can make sleep apnea symptoms worse for you. To train yourself to sleep on your side, attach a sock (with a tennis ball inside it) and sew or pin it to the back bottom hem of the shirt or top you sleep in. This will keep you from rolling over into the position you’re used to, and you’ll be sleeping on your side in no time!
Commit to Weight Loss
Sleep apnea is very common for those who are very overweight or obese. However, studies have shown that by losing 10% of your bodyweight, you can see your symptoms reduced in severity by 30%! For instance, if you weigh 300 pounds, losing 30 pounds is all you need to do to improve the quality of your sleep. 30 pounds might sound difficult, but with proper diet and a good exercise regimen, you’ll be surprised at how fast the pounds will come off!
Drink Less Alcohol
Consuming alcohol, even in moderation, can worsen sleep apnea symptoms. Alcohol weakens your muscle tone, and that includes the muscles you need to breathe. Lowered muscle tone will make the obstruction worse, which makes your symptoms more severe.
This also applies to sleep medications and other relaxants you might take. Consider talking to your doctor about changing your medications if possible, or at the very least to get a better understanding of how these relaxants affect your specific physiology.
The effects of alcohol and other relaxants on sleep apnea get worse the older you get, so if you’re getting on in years (on the outside, at least) it may be worth your while to curb your consumption (again, even if you drink responsibly).
We saved this one for last, because it is the biggest. Smoking causes all kinds of problems, and if you have sleep apnea and you’re a smoker, you are putting yourself through all kinds of additional misery:
Smoking increases the severity of cardiovascular issues you already have. Your heart health and sleep apnea are directly linked: the worse your cardiovascular health, the worse your sleep apnea symptoms will be.
Smoking will cause inflammation in your upper airway, which can increase the severity of your sleep apnea symptoms by a considerable margin.
The Effects of Nicotine
Nicotine, the chemical in cigarettes that makes them addictive, is sometimes thought of as relatively benign (besides the addiction part; it’s the smoke that causes all the problems, right?). However, nicotine can effect your upper airway muscles, which are a critical component of your respiratory system. This will worsen your sleep apnea symptoms.
If you smoke but have tried quitting before, you know just how bad nicotine withdrawal can be. People fail to quit smoking because the withdrawal symptoms are just too much!
Nicotine’s hold on your body is very strong. Smokers will know that only after a few hours without a cigarette, withdrawals can kick in, and you need to satisfy the addiction. This cycle doesn’t stop just because you’re sleeping! You can still have withdrawals even while you’re asleep, and this can worsen the overall effect that sleep apnea has on your health and your life. In fact, strong correlations between sleep apnea and failing to give up smoking have been made. This means that sleep apnea will actually make it harder to quit smoking!
I’m Ready to Take On My Sleep Apnea!
If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, give us a call and set up an appointment for a consultation with your dentist. We can diagnose your problem and provide the help you require to finally make getting to sleep a snooze.
Call now! Dial 317-451-4050 or click here for our online appointment form.