Do You Need a Sleep Appliance?

In the day-to-day hubbub and stresses of life, we all have mornings that find us feeling less rested than we’d like to be. Even if you went to bed at a reasonable hour, job or family worries weighing on your mind can keep you from getting that kind of restful and restorative sleep we all need.          

But, if you find that you are chronically tired, stumbling your way through days like a zombie and your spouse is continually complaining about the loud snoring you do each night – you may want to seek a doctor’s opinion on whether you suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Why are You Always Tired?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that occurs when breathing is disrupted during sleep.  The more common form – obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – is caused by the collapse of soft tissue at the back of the throat that results in a blockage of the airways, and can cause loud snoring.  If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may stop breathing repeatedly during the night – up to hundreds of times over the course of several hours – and as a result, your brain may not be receiving enough oxygen.

Overweight men over the age of 40 with a family history of sleep apnea or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) are more at risk for suffering from sleep apnea, but anyone – including children – can be affected. Untreated, the disorder can lead to high blood pressure, a higher risk of stroke, heart failure, diabetes, and depression. That’s on top of the daily exhaustion and negative effects on concentration and focus. People with sleep apnea never feel fully rested, because they never get a full night’s sleep.

If your doctor suspects you may have sleep apnea, you may be asked to undergo a sleep apnea test – also called a polysomnogram.  Many times, this test is done under the surveillance of a medical team in a sleep disorder center, where patients are monitored and recorded to determine the nature and severity of a sleep disorder.

Like any chronic condition, getting a diagnosis as soon as possible can improve your chances of successful treatment and lower the risk of developing further complications.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

So, once you’ve been diagnosed, how will your sleep apnea be treated? If lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or changing sleeping positions don’t help enough, you may be required to use a breathing machine known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which regulates breathing by increasing air pressure. Unfortunately, it can be a large, loud apparatus with tubing and a mask that gets in the way of relaxing bedtime routines. Thankfully, this technology is evolving and smaller, quieter alternatives are becoming available.

If your sleep apnea is mild, you probably won’t need a CPAP machine and may get successful results with a dental appliance. These oral devices, which resemble sports mouth guards or retainers, work by pushing the lower jaw and lower tongue slightly forward which keeps breathing airways open during sleep. They are custom made and fitted by your dentist to conform precisely to your mouth and jaw.

Sleep apnea is more than just a nuisance – it’s a serious health issue that can affect nearly every facet of your well-being. If there’s a chance you may have it, get checked out right away. Your snoring, your mental focus and your overall health will greatly improve – and your suffering spouse will thank you!

Have you been diagnosed with sleep apnea? Talk to us about dental appliances. Located in Alexandria, TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of the Greater Washington Area,  provides a holistic approach to dental care that incorporates total-body health and wellness. Learn more at