SIDNEY — Sleep. We all need its restorative power. But for 36 million Americans with undiagnosed sleep apnea, sleep can be more detrimental to good health than helpful, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
To highlight the dangers of sleep apnea, local dentist Jeff Van Treese presented a program at the Sidney Shelby County YMCA, Tuesday, titled “Snoring, Sleep Apnea and You.”
Van Treese explained that snoring is noise produced during sleep when the muscles of the neck relax and the air moving through the throat causes the soft tissues to vibrate.
“We all snore from time to time,” said Van Treese. “As long as the person continues breathing regularly and exchanging air, snoring is only an annoyance for his or her sleep partner. But many snorers actually stop breathing, and that is when it becomes dangerous.”
Snoring is one symptom of the condition called sleep apnea. Others are daytime sleepiness, restlessness while sleeping and morning headaches. Someone with sleep apnea has a cessation of air flow for 10 seconds or more and must actually fight to start breathing again. When this happens, the body releases adrenaline, causing the heart to race. The more often this happens during the night, the more stress there is on the heart. This can lead to arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke or even sudden death.
Mild sleep apnea is defined as five to 15 episodes per hour; moderate is 15 to 30 episodes; and severe is more than 30. Anyone experiencing even mild sleep apnea can develop chronic sleepiness, heartburn or acid reflux, depression, memory problems, weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, headaches, impaired concentration and fatigue.
“Sufferers tend to have saggy throat tissue, large tonsils, a small lower jaw and a large tongue,” said Van Treese. “Nasal constriction from allergies or other conditions can be a contributing factor, as can obesity or neck sizes of 16 inches or more in women and 17 inches or more in men.”
The most common treatment for sleep apnea sufferers is a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine. The CPAP is a mask worn during sleep that is connected by a tube to a machine that pumps air, keeping the throat muscles from collapsing so that the airway is not constricted. Another treatment option is a dental appliance designed to hold the lower jaw and tongue in a forward position to keep the airway open.
Van Treese, who admits to having symptoms of sleep apnea himself, has been his own guinea pig in testing and researching various styles of dental appliances designed to aid sleep apnea sufferers. He has become more interested in the subject over the last four years, attending a number of conferences and lectures by health professionals.
“I have found it interesting to be part of the discussion,” said Van Treese. “There is a great deal of study being done and the medical community in general is becoming more receptive to the dental appliance as an alternative to the CPAP machine.” Van Treese noted that personally he wears his appliance not just to create a quiet bedroom for his wife, but because he wants to ensure that he will have more time with his four grown children and new grandbaby.
“Getting a good night’s sleep is your ticket to living a longer and healthier life,” he said.
Screening for possible sleep apnea can be done with a pulse oximeter, a monitor that checks breathing and oxygen levels throughout the night. If signs of sleep apnea are present, a more thorough test to confirm the results can be done at a sleep lab, found locally at Wilson Health. Patients must be referred to the sleep lab by a doctor or dentist.
“If we find there is a need for treatment after testing, we recommend the Lamberg Sleep Well Appliance,” said Van Treese. “It is designed for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea and those who find the CPAP machine difficult to tolerate. We have found it to be a helpful alternative for many patients.”
After the explanation, attendees at the session were able to ask questions and were encouraged to fill out questionnaires about their own sleep symptoms.
Van Treese has provided comprehensive dentistry and caring for patients in Sidney since 1987. His practice is at 2627 Broadway Ave. He is offering a complimentary consultation and pulse oximeter screening through the end of April. To make an appointment or get more information, call 937-507-3033.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.