People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.
Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.
The first step in treatment resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. Physicians and sleep specialists offer consultation and treatment options for diagnosis.
To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study may be recommended to monitor an individual overnight. Most patients should be assessed using a sleep study to determine if they suffer from mild, moderate or severe OSA.
There are several treatment options available. Those who fall in the severe category will benefit with using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. A dental appliance may be useful for those who fall in the mild to moderate category of sleep apnea. A variety of orthotics can be manufactured to fit precisely that are designed to hold the lower jaw in a forward position, preventing the soft tissue of the throat from collapsing and obstructing the airway to reduce snoring and improve breathing.
These precise fitting appliances are adjustable and become easier to wear as time goes on. Most patients find significant improvement with its use. If you travel and use a CPAP machine it can be cumbersome to transport. A dental appliance may be a great solution to offer help with sleep while on the road.