Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sleep Apnea

I have received quite a few inquiries in recent weeks about sleep apnea. I will therefore provide some basic information here.

Apnea in Greek means without breath. Sleep apnea refers to breathing pauses that occur while sleeping. They typically last 10 to 20 seconds. It is not uncommon for this to occur hundreds of times each night. Most of us can clearly identify these individuals by observing them while they sleep. Snoring is very common in these patients. A physician must be consulted to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea.

There are three classifications of sleep apnea. The first and most common is Obstructive sleep apnea. This occurs when there is a physical obstruction usually caused by the tongue or other soft tissues along the breathing pathway. Snoring is a common tell-tale sign. A second type is Central sleep apnea. This type is much less common. It occurs when the central nervous system fails to send the signals to the muscles that control breathing. The third type is Complex sleep apnea. In this type, there is simply a combination of the first two.

The problems can be relatively mild such as feeling sleepy throughout the day, being less energetic, slow reflexes, poor concentration and erectile dysfunction. Chronic and frequent breath interruptions and sleep deprivation can have significant health implications. Some sequelae include an increased risk in accidents, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and obesity. Other social sequelae are also common such as a higher divorce rate and poor work performance.

To determine if someone is suffering from sleep apnea, it is necessary to conduct a sleep study. This can be performed in a clinical setting. Recently, devices have been developed to perform these tests at home where the person feels to be in a more natural setting. The results are then interpreted by a physician.

If a diagnosis of sleep apnea is confirmed, there are several treatment modalities. The most common treatment has been the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) device. This device is a mask-like machine that provides a constant air flow. Compliance with wearing the device can be challenging.

Oral appliance therapy has proven to be an effective treatment modality in recent years. This is effective in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. They simply work by opening the airway with an oral appliance similar to an athletic mouthguard. Patients tend to be much more compliant with these devices and get almost immediate results. Patients often experience an immediate boost in mental and physical energy. There are many dentists with some expertise in this area.

Get some medical advice if you or someone you love suffers from this disorder.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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