Millions of people in the US have sleep apnea—suffering through restless nights, sleep deprivation, low oxygenation, and headaches, all without recognizing their symptoms. Our sleep dentists, Dr. Hedgecock and Dr. Kerr, have provided information and tips below to help patients understand their symptoms. To learn more about sleep apnea in Austin and Cedar Park, Texas, phone our local office at 512-215-4350.

What Is Sleep Apnea?
This sleeping disorder is divided into two main types: obstructive and central sleep apnea. Both occur when breathing becomes very shallow or stops for short durations while sleeping, and can occur hundreds of times throughout a single sleep cycle.

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Me?
There are many symptoms of sleep apnea that are easily recognizable to the suffer. These include loud, chronic snoring, waking up choking or out of breath, restless sleep cycles, early morning headaches, daily fatigue, and difficulty falling or staying asleep. If a patient takes depression, blood pressure, or GERD medications, or is clinically overweight, those medication may also contribute to a sleep apnea disorder.

Is Sleep Deprivation Harmful To My Health?
Sleep apnea can disrupt a patient’s deep sleep cycle, causing persistent sleep deprivation. Not only can this make a person feel tired and fatigued throughout the day, it can also lead to increased risk for high blood pressure, depression, headaches, ADHD symptoms, diabetes, stroke, and heart failure.

Why Do I Snore?
Unless a patient is suffering from sinus or nasal congestion, snoring is a symptom of obstructed airways. A soft palate and collapsed tissues in the back of the throat can vibrate as air passes through. Common causes are large tonsils, sleeping position, alcohol consumption, excess weight around the neck, or sleeping pills and muscle relaxers. Snoring can also be a sign of sleep disorders, UARS (upper airway resistance syndrome) and OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). These disorders cause sleep deprivation and lead to increased headaches, migraines, heartburn, acid-reflux, and an increased risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

How Do I Stop Snoring?
At-home treatments for snoring include regular exercise, weight loss, and avoiding sleeping pills, alcohol, and sedative before going to bed. But, if these treatments fail to resolve a patient’s problem, they speak with their local sleep specialist to learn about treatment plans and possible apnea diagnosis

How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Sleep apnea is often treated through sleep hygiene regimens, such as getting moderate exercise or limiting caffeine, alcohol and food consumption late in the day. Breathe Right® strips and similar products can also ease sleep apnea along with CPAP machines or fitted oral appliances. Surgical options are also available depending on the patient. Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery, or MMA surgery, tightens the soft palate and enlarges the upper airways by pulling the upper and lower jaws forward. ENT surgeons can perform soft palate surgery, or Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). These treatments are recommended only if the throat or mouth has severe physical obstructions.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a patient’s throat muscles relax and obstruct airflow, interrupting the natural breathing cycle.

What Is Central Sleep Apnea?
More uncommon than obstructive sleep apnea, this type of disorder is also more dangerous. Central sleep apnea is a condition in which the patient’s muscles do not receive the signals that monitor breathing movement.

What is CPAP Therapy?
CPAP, is also known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Using a mask, the CPAP machine presses air gently through the nose and mouth and into the lungs. The consistent pressure allows the sleeping patient to take deep, uninterrupted breaths, without the tissues in the back of the throat collapsing. However, some patients react negatively to CPAP, since in some cases the machine can cause extreme discomfort. Dr. Hedgecock and Dr. Kerr offer snoring treatment alternatives for those who are CPAP-intolerant.

What is Oral Appliance Therapy?
Oral Appliance Therapy treats sleep apnea through fitted appliances that reposition the mouth to increase airflow. The most common appliance is a MRD or mandibular repositioning device. These move the jaw into a forward position, lifting the palate and increasing space located behind the tongue. But to fit each of our patients, Sleep Better Austin offers a variety of appliances including: ResMed Narval CC™, TAP® 3, SUAD™, and SomnoDent® Flex.