While snoring is caused by a narrowing of the airway during sleep, sleep apnea involves the periodic blockage of the airway. When the airway is blocked, breathing stops—a condition known as apnea. During each apnea pause, the body’s air supply is cut off, oxygen levels plummet and carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs.
Eventually, the apnea triggers the body’s “emergency alert” system, sending a signal to the brain that causes the sleeper to wake momentarily and gasp for air before quickly returning to sleep. Because this stop/wake/gasp/sleep cycle happens quickly, a person with OSA doesn’t usually remember waking, though the cycle can repeat from dozens to hundreds of times each night.
OSA sufferers may wake still feeling tired, or remain groggy and listless throughout the day. OSA can reduce mental concentration and on-the-job performance, and make a person unsafe behind the wheel. Longer term, OSA has been linked to increased blood pressure, a range of heart conditions, and an increased risk for type two diabetes and cancer.
In mild cases of OSA, it is sometime possible to reduce or eliminate symptoms through lifestyle changes such as weight loss, sleeping on one’s side, and limiting alcohol, caffeine and large, high-fat meals before bedtime. In the majority of cases, however, sleep apnea sufferers will need to seek additional treatment. Any treatment program should begin with a diagnosis to determine the nature and severity of the OSA condition. Because self-diagnosis is not possible, and anecdotal observations by a bedmate are imprecise, anyone with the symptoms of OSA should seek the help of sleep medicine professionals to assess the severity of the condition.
If you are experiencing symptoms of OSA, Dr. Lalji can provide diagnostic services and initiate treatment. Due to the known health risks of OSA, studies and therapies are covered by many private insurance providers and may qualify for Medicare benefits.
One of the most prevalent treatment options for OSA is the constant positive airway pressure machine or CPAP. A CPAP system uses a bedside air pump to deliver a supply of pressurized air to a face mask worn by the user. This pressurized air supply helps keep the throat open to prevent apnea pauses. CPAP scan provide effective relief from sleep apnea. Unfortunately, a significant portion of OSA patients find the mask and air supply tube of the CPAP system to be restrictive or uncomfortable, and either decline treatment or discontinue treatment after an initial trial period.
An increasingly popular alternative to CPAP therapy for OSA is the use of an oral appliances. These devices have proven effective in mitigating or eliminating OSA symptoms and are considered more comfortable by most users. Dr. Lalji specializes in the use of oral appliances for the treatment of snoring, OSA and TMD conditions.