We get it. When you have obstructive sleep apnea no one really enjoys wearing the mask. In fact, close to 50% of people who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea decide to not wear the mask because they feel they can’t sleep with it on. It’s uncomfortable.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
This respiratory dysfunction is when you stop or reduce your breathing while sleeping. Think about that, your body stops breathing during sleep. Hold your breath right now and imagine that happening to you hundreds of times a night for 8 hours. Think you would be tired? Have a high heart rate or high blood pressure?
In obstructive sleep apnea your airway collapses preventing you from breathing normally throughout the night. This could turn an 8 hour night sleep to feeling like it was a four hour night sleep.
Often people with OSA will snore, often loudly. This can create significant amount of joy for the partner. NOT!
How does obstructive sleep apnea affect someone?
- Daytime Sleepiness
- Poor sleep
- Poor focus
- Poor reaction time
- Poor memory
- Poor decision making
- Mood swings
- High Blood Pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.
- Atrial Fibrillation
It makes it very hard to treat these conditions without knowing if they have sleep apnea or not.
Oxygen is needed for life, and when it is being deprived for 25% of our day, multiple symptoms and disease will arise.
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Often times this is diagnosed with an in-lab polysomnography test, however at home studies are becoming increasing common. After the test is completed a number you should be familiar with is the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). This number represents the number of times your sleep is interrupted per hour. These are typically categorized as:
- 5-15/hour = mild
- 15-30/hour = moderate
- Great than 30/hour= severe.
It’s amazing to think that someone can stop or reduce their breathing every minute to every few minutes!
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treated?
As said before, OSA can be treated with a device that sustains enough pressure to keep the airway open. This device delivers continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Often times people just say I wear the mask.
When people do not tolerate the CPAP device, which is common, many elect to just use a dental device called a mandibular advancement device (MAD). This device essentially pulls your jaw forwards slightly to open up your airway allowing you to breathe throughout the night.
At Colorado Center for Functional Medicine, we like to provide as many options as possible for healing. We also find it odd that your airway just collapses. It turns out the airway collapses for many reasons, one of them being muscle weakness.
So can you strengthen your oral muscles in order to overcome your obstructive sleep apnea?
Turns out its been studied and has been shown to reduce the AHI by as much as 50% in some cases with mild to moderate OSA.
Many of these exercises are working with the facial, tongue, and lip muscles in order to maintain strength and tone while sleeping.
Working at these exercises for at least 3 months is essential. Of course though we don’t just exercise for 3 months and then quit. Its lifelong. I would be curious as to if you could reverse Obstructive Sleep Apnea entirely if you do the exercises for long enough.
If you know someone who snores, often tired during the day, stops breathing at night, dozes off during watching TV, reading a book, in traffic, or as a passenger in a car it might behoove them to get tested for sleep apnea. Fixing it could change their life.