What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Everyone is different.

Some people are born with a small airway, some have airway constriction as a result of weight gain, and others have an inability to keep their airway open while sleeping.

 

When the upper airway begins to narrow during sleep, you begin to snore.  This increases in severity over time, and often disturbs bed partners.

 

As the airway opening further reduces in size during sleep, a complete obstruction may occur. This prevents breathing, sometimes for up to one minute. Someone may be trying to breathe as their chest rises and falls, but no air is getting in.

As oxygen levels begin to fall, the brain sends a strong message to the upper airway muscles to contract and open the airway so that the body can take a breath, usually several deep breathes. This can sound like the gasping when coming up for air while swimming under water.

 

As you can imagine, this interrupts sleep.

Once the blood chemistry is returned to normal after a few breaths, the individual falls asleep again, and the upper airway muscles relax and collapse again. The whole cycle repeats itself, again and again throughout the entire night, every night; this is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

 

OSA is a serious medical condition, and extremely detrimental to health.

 

Common treatments include:

  • Lifestyle Changes (e.g. weight loss)

  • Positional Therapy (sleeping on your side)

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

  • Oral Appliances 

  • Upper Airway Surgery and/or Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery

 

You and your sleep physician will explore various management options that coincide with your values and preferences. You may decide to do a CPAP trial.

 

If you cannot or will not wear CPAP, the viable option is a custom made oral appliance. Your sleep physician will then write a prescription

for an oral appliance for a dentist trained in Dental Sleep Medicine to fabricate.

 

LifeStyle changes can involve referral to a psychologist, nutritionist or a Naturopathic Doctor.

 

Surgery is considered only if all other options have failed.

Depending on the type of apnea you have, treatments may be combined to maximize outcomes.

 

For whatever sleep apnea management you embark on, follow-up is crucial, particularly in the early stages of your program.