What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea causes your breathing to repeatedly start and stop while asleep. While not a definitive indication of the condition, snoring loudly at night and feeling tired even after receiving a full night’s sleep could suggest you suffer from sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea develops when the muscles at the back of your throat relax during sleep as well as the tongue. Typically, these throat muscles support the soft palate - a triangular shaped tissue that hangs from the side walls of the throat - the soft palate, tonsils and the tongue.

As the muscles in your throat relax, the tissue begins to collapse and your airway begins to narrow. This causes you to receive too little air and for your blood oxygen levels to drop.

When the brain receives the message that your body isn't receiving an adequate amount of oxygen, it briefly stimulates the body from sleep so that the airway will reopen and the oxygen levels will rise. The time you spend awake is usually so brief that most people never realize they ever woke up.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may make snoring, choking or gasping sounds during sleep as a result of your body receiving too little air. This pattern of your airway collapsing, waking and falling back to sleep can occur between five to 30 or even more times an hour throughout the entire night. These repeated disruptions to your sleep prevents you from receiving the deep REM sleep your body requires to feel fully rested. Because you receive so little REM sleep, the disorder is likely to make you feel sluggish and tired most days no matter how much rest you got the night before.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) can help treat patients that suffer from mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. OAT also offers an alternative to patients who cannot tolerate the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, therapy machines.

Oral Appliances are placed in the mouth and are worn much like an orthodontic appliance or mouth guard. Wearing an oral appliance at night will help to prevent the collapse of the soft tissues that obstructs your airway during sleep by advancing the lower jaw forward. Wearing the appliance helps to keep the airway open, so you can enjoy uninterrupted sleep at night.

Don't wait any longer to get the rest you need at night. Call or click to schedule your sleep apnea consultation with our Longmont dentist today!