Sleep Apnea Treatment in Lake Forest

Helping You Get a Good Night's Rest in Lake Forest

Sleep apnea is a very common medical condition, affecting millions of people in the United States. However, because it occurs during sleep, you might not even know you have it. You simply feel the effects the next day without really knowing why. This problem can go undetected for years and is associated with increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and many other chronic health conditions. Fortunately, it is usually manageable once you have been diagnosed.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

This is a sleep disorder that causes your airway to be restricted or blocked. During normal sleep, breathing is deep and regular. When the airflow is restricted or cut off entirely, your breathing may become shallow or even stop for 10 to 20 seconds. When this occurs, your brain does not get enough oxygen. Fortunately, your body has a built in "alarm system" that triggers your breathing reflex to kick in. You probably won't wake all the way up when this happens. You are simply roused from deep sleep into a more alert state. This disruption can happen over and over. For some patients, an apnea episode might occur every couple of minutes. As you can imagine, this is incredibly disruptive to deep, restorative sleep.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

There are many different reasons your airway might become obstructed when you lie down to rest. As you drift off to sleep, the muscles that help keep your throat open begin to relax. In this state, it doesn't take much for the airway to be blocked entirely. Obesity, a receding chin, a deviated septum or large tonsils can restrict airflow making it difficult to breathe. If you are a smoker, have allergies that cause nasal congestion, or use sedatives (including alcohol), your chances of experiencing apnea increase.

How Can You Know If You Have Apnea?

Your loved ones may be able to clue you in to this condition. They will notice that you snore loudly - particularly when you sleep on your back. Or, they might be freaked out that you appear to stop breathing from time to time during sleep. You may make a gurgling, snorting or choking sound as you resume breathing. Occasionally, you may have recurring nighttime wakefulness. You might frequently bite your tongue or the inside of your cheek in your sleep.

You may also notice a variety of daytime symptoms such as:

  • Sleepiness or fatigue that isn't helped by taking a nap
  • Headache or dry mouth when you wake up
  • Mood swings, irritability or depression

A sleep study can determine whether you have apnea, what kind you have and how bad it is. This type of test is particularly helpful if it gives clues to what positions you tend to be in when you have apnea episodes. The severity and type of apnea will determine the recommended treatment.

How Can Sleep Apnea Be Treated?

Obstructive sleep apnea may be treated with non-invasive options first. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, smoking cessation and changes in sleep position can often provide substantial improvement. Allergies and congestion may be controlled with medication.

If your sleep apnea is mild to moderate, you may be an ideal candidate for a dental device. These appliances work by holding your jaw in a forward/downward position to keep the airway open or by gently holding your tongue in place so it doesn't relax backward and block your throat. An orthodontist or a general dentist with experience adjusting oral appliances can customize the mouthpiece for the most comfortable fit. You are most likely to be helped by an orthodontic appliance if you sleep on your back or stomach.

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) mask is the preferred treatment for severe sleep apnea. This mask blows a gentle stream of air down your throat to keep your airway open so your body doesn't have to wake up to help you breathe. Surgery to reposition or remove tissues in the nose, mouth or throat is a last resort since these procedures are not reversible and aren't guaranteed to fix the problem.

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