If you think that your snoring is harmless, or that your excessive tiredness or fatigue is just no big deal, think again. Both can be dangerous, even if you think you’re not the typical sleep apnea patient.
Michael Uzelac, D.D.S., a trusted Valparaiso dentist at Sleep Airway Solutions, provides oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. Uzelac said that while there are some typical traits for people who suffer obstructive sleep apnea – like people who are overweight or have larger necks, or women who have entered menopause – the reality is, there is no typical Sleep Airway Solutions patient.
“Rather than say there is a typical patient, you have to look at indicators of poor sleep, and there are a lot of them that people might not consider,” Uzelac said. “Snoring is an obvious one. It’s pathological. Nothing good comes from snoring and while people make light of it and it’s the butt of jokes, it’s a serious indicator that your body isn’t getting the rest it needs.”
But what if you aren’t that typical middle-aged man who snores?
“Regardless of whether you snore, your body is telling you something if you feel tired or fatigued,” Uzelac said. “If you’re sitting at your desk or behind the wheel and you’re falling asleep – you have sleep issues. If you wake up with frequent morning headaches, you could have sleep issues. If you are getting up to urinate at night, you could have a sleep problem. You can’t just write off these indicators because you don’t think of yourself as a typical sleep apnea patient,” Uzelac said.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a patient’s muscles in their throat relax during sleep, blocking their airway and causing excessive snoring or even stopped breathing. It has been linked to fatigue, excessive tiredness, heart disease, and other major health conditions.
Whether someone is a light or heavy snorer, the tissues in the throat become swollen over time and contribute to repeated obstructive occurrences.
“Snoring isn’t an indicator of how tired you are. Likewise, you also don’t snore because of any specific behavior, like drinking alcohol. Snoring isn’t a result of your behavior – it’s usually an indicator of a restricted airway,” Uzelac said. “I also treat people who snore but have not become apnea patients. For whatever reason, they haven’t progressed to that point, but they still want to stop snoring, or their bed partners want them to stop snoring. It’s a disruptive thing.”
Uzelac indicated that CPAP machines are statistically most effective for treating obstructive apnea when they are worn properly. The problem is, many patients are not compliant enough with CPAP therapy to experience the health benefits, because CPAP machines can be bulky and uncomfortable.
“They work, but you have to wear them consistently. And you have to maintain the machines,” he said. “A recent study called the SAVE study showed that the way people wear CPAP now versus the average oral appliance nets the exact same statistical outcome for heart health. CPAP is better if you wear it eight hours a night, but so few people do that, so oral appliances are equally effective in relieving heart-related problems due to sleep apnea,” Uzelac said.
Oral appliances also are more convenient to travel with, fitting in a small plastic container the size of a coin purse.
Either way, Uzelac stressed that patients should not ignore the things that make them tired, regardless of whether they consider themselves the “typical” sleep apnea patient.
“Culturally, it’s almost like we reward lack of sleep. We take good sleep for granted. We have to take better care of ourselves,” Uzelac said. “We can’t help everyone with oral appliance therapy, but I get very positive feedback from those we have helped. If you sleep poorly for three years, and then you get one month of good sleep with an oral appliance, your life is changed.”
For more information about an evaluation for oral appliance therapy, visit Sleep Airway Solutions online at https://www.sleepairwaysolutions.com/.