Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing while a person is asleep. These breathing pauses or apnea events last for about 10 to 15 seconds or more, depending on the condition’s severity. People with sleep apnea can experience breathing pauses hundreds of times each night. Severe sleep apnea can cause disruption, discomfort, low oxygen levels, low energy, fatigue, exhaustion, and respiratory and mental health conditions. According to AMA, 30% million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. However, only six million people have undergone proper diagnosis to seek treatment for the condition.
Types of Sleep Apnea
According to Medical News Today, there are three types of sleep apnea: Obstructive, Central, and Complex/Mixed Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can take a massive toll on your physical and mental health if not treated properly and promptly.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when tissues at the back of your throat or respiratory tract block the upper airways. The problem is due to the collapse of tissues in the respiratory tract. If you have OSA, you can still breathe, but the restricted airflow does not provide enough oxygen to your lungs.
Central sleep apnea is more of a neurological condition than a respiratory disorder because it occurs when your brain or central nervous system does not send appropriate signals to the muscles or tissues that control breathing. However, central sleep apnea is not as common as OSA.
Complex sleep apnea also called mixed apnea pauses, is a health condition caused by central and obstructive sleep apnea. A person suffering from this disorder finds breathing challenging, and each apnea episode starts with central sleep apnea, meaning you will experience “no breathing” for a few seconds. Similarly, you will start breathing, but the restrictive airflow due to obstructive sleep apnea prevents air/oxygen from flowing into your lungs. Although complex sleep apnea is a rare condition, it is life-threatening.
Health Complications of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause a wide range of medical/health complications. It affects your physical and mental wellbeing, causing daytime sleepiness, trouble focusing/thinking/concentrating, and fatigue. Not sleeping properly at night due to sleep apnea can increase the risk of car accidents. According to the American Lungs Association, sleep apnea prevents people from sleeping properly and can increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Another study highlights that severe sleep apnea episodes can cause neuronal damage in the central nervous system and lead to memory loss. A 2017 study published on PubMed shows that obstructive sleep apnea can cause:
Epilepsy and stroke
Headaches and migraines
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
First, avoiding alcohol, smoking, sedatives, and anti-depressants is crucial, especially before going to bed. These medications can relax your throat muscles and interfere with the airways to obstruct breathing. Second, you must sleep on your left side to control sleep apnea episodes. Sleeping on your left side increases blood flow, reduces snoring, and prevents sleep apnea. A 2016 research study published on NCBI states that exercise is an excellent way to control sleep apnea symptoms. Researchers conclude that aerobic exercises can improve upper airway dilator muscle tone, increase stage-3 NREM sleep or slow-wave sleep, decrease fluid buildup in the neck, and control systemic inflammatory responses. Because weight gain and obesity can worsen sleep apnea, exercises, such as walking, jogging, and running, can burn stubborn fatty tissues in your body and help with snoring and sleep apnea.
Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea Treatment
Advanced medical research and technologies have encouraged scientists and researchers in the health field to develop innovative, non-surgical devices that can ease sleep apnea symptoms. One such cutting-edge product is the mandibular advancement device. A research study published in BMJ Journal highlights that mandibular advancement devices or MADs are an excellent treatment option to control obstructive sleep apnea. The device readjusts your jaw and moves your tongue forward, easing constriction in your throat muscles and tissues, leading to proper and unobstructed airflow. Remember that each MAD is tailored or customized according to the patient’s mouth size.
Another type of an oral appliance for sleep apnea treatment is the VIVOS system called an mRNA Appliance. The mRNA Appliance is a combination of MAD and biomimetic appliance designed to permanently change the jaw structure. By changing the anatomical structure of the jaw, the airway size can increase naturally without any surgical or pharmaceutical intervention. This treatment can take 18-24 months.