The Effects of Sleep Apnea on Your Health
Sleep Apnea is an extremely common problem, affecting about 22 million Americans. If left untreated, it can negatively affect not only your sleep and quality of life but your overall health as well, putting you at risk for a bevy of serious health problems. Let’s take a closer look.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a condition that causes your breathing to temporarily stop while you are asleep. There are different types of sleep apnea, but the most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway, typically when the soft tissue in the back of the throat closes during sleep. When this happens, your brain wakes you up just enough to resume breathing, causing your sleep to be fragmented.
Most people are unaware that this is happening and only suspect they may have sleep apnea when they begin to experience other symptoms, such as loud snoring, persistent daytime fatigue or irritability, waking up out of breath during the night, or waking in the morning with a headache, dry mouth or sore throat.
The Health Effects of Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea not only disrupts your sleep, it also has the potential to cause or contribute to a variety of health problems, many of them severe. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for:
- High Blood Pressure or Heart Disease. Sleep Apnea causes sudden drops in blood oxygen levels, increasing blood pressure and straining the cardiovascular system. This could increase your risk of abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
- Type 2 Diabetes. Sleep Apnea can increase your risk of developing insulin resistance. This in turn increases your blood sugar levels and puts you at higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Metabolic Syndrome. People with Sleep Apnea are at increased risk of developing this disorder. Metabolic Syndrome includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, and an increased waist circumference, all of which are linked to higher risk of heart disease.
- Liver Problems. People with Sleep Apnea are more likely to have higher than normal levels of liver enzymes, liver scarring, or fatty liver disease.
- Respiratory Problems. Since it deprives your body of oxygen while you sleep, Sleep Apnea can exacerbate symptoms of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This is only a partial list of the problems that untreated Sleep Apnea can cause, but even so you can see how seriously it can affect your health.
How Falls Orthodontics Can Help
While there is little correlation between orthodontic care and sleep-related breathing disorders like Sleep Apnea, Dr. Cermin has completed additional training in sleep medicine that has qualified her to be a provider of oral sleep appliances. These appliances help open the airway and provide better oxidation while you sleep.
While an oral sleep appliance may not be the right treatment for each patient, for some it can significantly improve their sleep. Dr. Cermin and her staff are pleased to offer this sleep wellness treatment in conjunction with your physician or sleep doctor in an effort to bring health to the whole person and increase quality of life.
One Patient’s Story – Better Sleep, Better Quality of Life
One of our recent patients, Mary Jean Jergenson, has had success using a custom-fitted oral sleep appliance to treat her sleep apnea. Here is her story:
“Being fitted with a custom oral sleep appliance changed my life. I used to wake up in the morning thinking, “When can I take a nap today?”. Daytime naps were 2-3 hours long. I would fall asleep when riding in a car. When driving, I needed to nap every hour to avoid dozing off. And the snoring: My family joked about my loud snoring – heard throughout our large farmhouse even behind closed doors. I would even wake myself up in the middle of a snore! It was embarrassing to know guests staying with us would hear me.
After a sleep study, specialists recognized that the physical anatomy of my jaw and palate, when relaxed in sleep, closed off my small-sized airway. As I went from a light sleep to deep sleep, tissues in the roof of my mouth and throat relaxed more. It closed my airway, causing me to wake to reposition and reopen the airway. So I was not able to get into the healthy deep sleep my body needed. I understand now this caused me to wake in the morning still tired.
Dr. Cermin met with me, examined my records and x-rays, and suggested an oral sleep appliance. The custom-fitted device is worn in my mouth only during sleep. It holds my lower jaw forward and keeps my airway open even when muscles relax as I sleep — even during deep sleep! I wake refreshed and ready for a full day of work or activity, no naps needed. My husband and sleep partner tells me he is no longer bothered by my snoring.
I feel so much better – more energetic, more alert, more productive. And I sleep well at night. Thank you, Dr. Cermin, for helping me find a solution for better sleep and better quality of life.”
If you suspect you may have Sleep Apnea, talk with your physician about scheduling a sleep test to confirm a diagnosis and discuss treatment. If your doctor agrees that an oral sleep appliance may help you, give us a call at 715-483-1505 to schedule an appointment. Dr. Cermin and the team at Falls Orthodontics look forward to helping improve your sleep and your quality of life!