Not Getting Restful Sleep? We Could Be Overlooking An Epidemic

What you need to know about healthy sleep and undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Sleep is vital to our overall health. We need it to properly function. Sleep is the new sexy, or the new forty. With its value being recognized by CEOs, physicians, athletes, and more, there is a collective consciousness surrounding sleep’s benefits to both mental and physical overall health. Yet, according to WorldSleepDay.com, 14% of the population (between 30 and 70 million people in the United States¹) doesn’t know their sleep is being interrupted by an undiagnosed condition called sleep apnea.

Secretary of the Greater New York Academy of Prosthodontics and Board Certified Prosthodontist Dr. Robert Rawdin, “Sleep apnea is a problem. An epidemic really. So many people have not been treated and don’t know they need to be. Sleep is a vital part of life, and there needs to be more awareness about sleep apnea.”
Photo Courtesy Shutterstock

What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes shallow breathing, or pauses in breathing. Pauses lasting longer than sixty seconds can trigger a “fight or flight” response to the brain, which can cause gasping or choking. Sleep apnea disrupts normal sleep, and can cause someone to be tired and sleepy the next day.

When your body stops breathing during sleep, it has many adverse effects on your health, and left untreated can cause serious problems. Men, ages forty and over, can develop impotence, and it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, arrhythmia, diabetes, weight gain, stroke, and heart attack in both men and women.²

How is sleep apnea treated? The most common method of treatment is the CPAP machine. It is a mask worn at night connected to a machine that helps consistently deliver oxygen to your airway. To qualify for a CPAP, you must undergo a sleep test where results are reviewed by a certified sleep physician. The alarming news about CPAP machines? Only 50% of those who have them, actually use them, often because they are uncomfortable or they are embarrassed about how they look.

However, in recent years, Dentists have started getting involved to help treat mild and moderate sleep apnea with oral devices that are similar to a retainer or mouthpiece. The upper and lower mouthguard is worn at night, pulling the jaw slightly forward to open the airway. These devices have helped people control blood pressure levels, weight issues, and excessive tiredness and find their way back to restful sleep.

There is also a surgical option, however it is only used in severe cases.

Who is at risk for sleep apnea? The following questions can help determine if you may be at risk for sleep apnea. There is a misconception that you have to be overweight or snore to have the condition. There have been cases of healthy 20–30 year olds who have had sleep apnea and have never known it.

  1. Do you snore or have you been told by someone you snore?
  2. Has anyone ever noticed that you quit breathing during your sleep?
  3. Do you ever awaken with a sensation of gasping or choking?
  4. Do you often feel tired or fatigued immediately after getting up from sleep?
  5. During your waking time, do you often feel tired, fatigued or not up to par?
  6. Have you, in the past 6 months, nodded off or fallen asleep in situations where you did not intend to?
  7. Do you have (or are being treated for) high blood pressure?
  8. Do you have (or are you being treated for) Diabetes?

(Questions courtesy of Dr. Rawdin, New York Smile Specialists @ Gallery 57 Dental)

Restful sleep allows adequate oxygenation to all the organs. When mini arousals happen through the night with sleep apnea, good sleep is interrupted. Someone could wake 10 to 30 times an hour, constantly depriving organs from getting oxygen and putting more stress on the cardiovascular system.³

Heart Specialist Dr. William Frist, “Medically, sleep apnea unquestionably increases your risk of heart disease, notably abnormal heart beats, high blood pressure, stroke, enlarged heart and heart failure. Lack of good sleep causes or contributes to issues with depression, irritability, weight management, Attention Deficit Disorder, and accidents.”

Sleep apnea is a very serious condition. Better breathing can add years to someone’s life, and can even save marriages. (According to Psychology Today, snoring is a major stress point in many relationships.) Because sleep is the new forty, talk to your dentist or physician if you have trouble sleeping.

Sources:

¹American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine

²SleepEducation.org

³Cleveland Clinic Sleep-Disordered Breathing

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