Practically everyone snores while sleeping, at least occasionally. But if your snoring seems to be waking you up at night, you’re not feeling refreshed when you wake, or if your partner has complained about loud snoring that keeps her or him awake, your snoring might be a symptom of something else… sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
When we sleep, the muscles around our airway keep it open so that we can breathe freely. Sometimes, those muscles relax too much which allows the airway to collapse partially or even completely. When that happens, our bodies are trying to force air in and out through a much smaller space or even a blocked one. The result is very loud snoring, possible awakening in the middle of the night (although we may not remember waking up), and even short periods where we don’t breathe.
Some people have excessive tissues in their throats that can cause the airway obstruction. Others snore, gasp, and wake due the muscles relaxing too much.
This pattern of snoring and altered breathing can happen several or even dozens of times during the night. It’s fairly common for bed partners to move to another room, temporarily or permanently. That can happen due to the loud snoring, or because waiting for someone to start breathing again can be disturbing.
Sleep apnea can cause many problems with your daytime functioning: lack of energy, fatigue, daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, attention problems, and irritability. Even worse, sleep apnea has been linked to such serious problems as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and even stroke.
What Should I Do If I Think I Might Have Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that needs an evaluation and a diagnosis. Dr. DiBona offers evaluation of any underlying condition as well as snoring and sleep apnea solutions.
Dr. DiBona may perform an examination to check for physical factors that could cause disordered breathing, and review your medical history. She’ll also review your family’s medical history since having one or more family members with sleep apnea is a risk factor.
If Dr. DiBona suspects you might have sleep apnea, she’ll order a sleep study. There are several options for sleep studies, including an at-home study in which you wear a device to monitor your sleep patterns. Or, she may order the study done off-site in a sleep lab. Dr. DiBona works with a specialist who will perform the sleep study. She’ll receive the results and interpret and discuss the results with you. The goal of either type of study is to confirm a diagnosis and rule out other possible sleep disorders.
If the sleep study confirms sleep apnea, Dr. DiBona will discuss a treatment plan with you. Many people with sleep apnea benefit from using a custom oral appliance while they sleep. The appliance comfortably moves your jaw forward, which helps keep your airway open during sleep. This is a much more portable and comfortable solution to sleep apnea than the traditional Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine.
Oral appliances can also benefit people whose snoring isn’t due to sleep apnea, but who want themselves and their partners to have more restful nights.
Troubled by Snoring? Don’t Wait!
Sleep apnea can have many negative effects on your health, your daily functioning, and the quality of your relationships. It’s not something to take lightly, and the sooner you seek professional help, the sooner you can enjoy restful, energizing sleep and a happier partner.
If you think you have sleep apnea, or if you’d like to discuss whether a new oral appliance might help your snoring or that of someone you love, call our office at 732-945-5343. You can also fill out our convenient appointment form, and we will call you back shortly.