What is Sleep Apnea?

If you’ve heard this term before, you might associate it with loud snoring, and gasping for breath or holding your breath while you sleep. You might also associate someone who has apnea with BEARS, CHAINSAWS, OR LAWNMOWERS! Those are all pretty fair comparisons! Many people who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea snore chronically and LOUDLY!

Sleep Apnea or Sleep Disordered Breathing can be caused by:

  • Obstruction (large tonsils and adenoids, tongue volume)
  • Environment (allergens)
  • Centric (nervous system)

Unfortunately, snoring is not all there is to it. Snoring is just a symptom of something more troublesome. The reason behind the snoring is what makes apnea so problematic. Actually, heavy snoring is caused by air vibrating over nearly-closed air passages. And yes, that’s every bit as scary as it sounds.

At night, millions of people around the world lay down to sleep with clear, perfectly functional airways. During sleep however, everything in the body relaxes, including the airway; which is influenced by muscles in the face, neck, and air passages. Jaws drop open, tongues slide back, and airways collapse in on themselves, (Sometimes all the way). YIKES!

When that happens, our brains go into panic mode. The patient can’t get enough air int the lungs, so the brain yells, “WAKE-UP!” so the patient wakes abruptly. Almost immediately, the tension returns to the airway, they take in a deep breath, and fall right back to sleep, usually without even remembering any of it.

SHOCKING FACT:This can happen as many as a few hundred times a night!

As you can imagine, waking up that often, even for just a microsecond, makes for poor sleep. Not spending enough time in a state of prolonged “deep sleep” literally causes mental and physical disabilities!

HERE’S THE SCIENCE: In Deep Sleep, glucose metabolism increases, which supports short-term and long-term memory as well as overall learning. For adults and children, if we sleep too little, we are unable to process what we’ve learned during the day and have more trouble remembering it in the future. Sometimes, children are misdiagnosed with problems like ADHD because they cannot focus, learn and retain; when the real contributing factor is lack of quality sleep.

Deep sleep is also when the pituitary gland secretes important hormones, like human growth hormone, which leads to development in children, energy restoration, cell regeneration (healing and growth), of the body and immune system function

People who don’t spend enough time in a deep sleep state, wake up in the morning thinking they’ve had plenty of rest, and wondering why they’re still so tired, cannot concentrate or are sick all time.

And here’s the SCARY PART! Lack of quality sleep significantly increases health risks for depression, anxiety, seizures, high blood pressure, migraines, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, illness, and infection. NO THANK YOU!

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ORTHODONTICS?

Besides wanting to make you happy and #ShareYourSmile, proper jaw and tooth alignment is OUR ENTIRE BUSINESS! The ideal jaw sizing and alignment is everything, when it comes to airway. In mild and medium apnea cases, if we develop the jaw sizes, which keeps the tongue from sliding back during sleep; most of the battle is over!

No more interrupted rest. No more severe snoring.

In the adult patient, there are many different brands, models, and styles of apnea devices, but nearly all of them are centered around the idea of jaw alignment. Here at Hi 5, we have the necessary equipment and experience to precisely measure exactly what your ideal alignment is, and how to get it there.

In a growing child, we can guide jaw growth and direction, eliminating the need for sleep appliances or future jaw surgeries. We we often see significant “markers” for sleep disordered breathing in our initial exam. This can include: severe attrition (teeth severely worn down from grinding during sleep), inability to nasal breath, narrow jaws, crossbites, openbites, swallowing disorders, difficulty chewing food properly, and the list goes on!

We work with sleep doctors, ENT’s, pediatric dentists, sleep dentists, surgeons, myofunctional therapists, speech therapists, and many other specialists to help you when orthodontics isn’t the only treatment you need.

If you suffer from apnea and are interested in learning more about any of these oral devices, please call us. Don’t lose any more sleep over this than you already have.