Patients who rarely feel well-rested, despite the amount of time spent in bed, may have sleep apnea and not even be aware of it. It’s a fairly common problem. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million Americans struggle with this condition.
Daytime drowsiness is just one symptom of sleep apnea however. Other signs include loud snoring – especially if it is marked by noticeable pauses in breathing, frequent sore throats upon waking or morning headaches.
Sleep apnea occurs most often when the airway opening is obstructed when the soft tissues at the rear of the throat collapse repeatedly during sleep. This causes the patient to stop breathing for very short periods of time. During those apneic episodes, brief though they are, the patient is not getting adequate amounts of oxygen. The breathing pauses also interfere with the quality of the patient’s sleep.
If you’ve exhibited any of the symptoms listed above, the next step is to complete a sleep study so that you can get a confirmed diagnosis of sleep apnea and pursue appropriate treatment options. Many patients consult with an oral surgeon for treatment, which can range from conservative approaches like oral appliance therapy to more invasive surgical measures.
When attempts to treat the condition through weight loss or oral appliances fail, the oral surgeon may recommend a surgical solution to resolve the symptoms.
The surgical procedures may involve removing excess soft tissue to reduce the likelihood of airway obstruction. Surgery to reposition the patient’s jaw may also be indicated, if the jaw appears to be contributing to the apnea.
Sleep apnea has ramifications for your overall well-being, and it has been linked to serious problems like stroke and heart disease. If you have noticed signs of sleep apnea, or if a sleeping partner has alerted you to an unusual breathing pattern during sleep, schedule a sleep study and talk with one of our oral surgeons to learn what treatment options may help in your case.