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What is Sleep Apnea?

We Have Answers

Sleep apnea is the second most common sleep problem right behind insomnia, with 22 million Americans affected daily. Due to more individuals becoming overweight and increased sedentary lifestyles, the rate of this chronic condition is skyrocketing. What causes it, and how can you know whether you or a loved one are dealing with it? At Covington Sleep Center, we offer options to diagnose and treat sleep apnea in Covington, GA.

Sleep Apnea Basics

An apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for very short periods of time during their sleep cycle. The body panics and wakes up when this occurs. Thankfully, instead of letting you suffocate, the body clears the airway by forcing a loud gasp or snort. The main problem is these apneas can happen hundreds of times a night, even without you realizing it. If you’re constantly experiencing apneas, you cannot stay asleep and therefore cannot achieve the deep rest you need to recharge your mind and body.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

person with tap measure around waist

A person can develop sleep apnea due to a wide number of reasons, some of them stemming from genetics, others from lifestyle. Many sleep apnea patients have a naturally narrow or flexible airway that easily becomes blocked throughout the night. Similar issues can also occur for those who have a larger-than-average tongue, neck, uvula, or set of tonsils.

However, the biggest contributing factor to sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity. Too much fatty tissue on the throat and chest places pressure on the airway which makes blockages more likely to occur during sleep. Using too many sedatives or taking them too close to bed (including anti-anxiety medications, pain pills, and alcohol) can have a depressive effect on the body that interferes with breathing as well.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

exhausted man at work

Call our sleep apnea dental office if you experience any of the following symptoms or warning signs of sleep apnea:

  • Loud, consistent snoring
  • Wheezing, gasping, or waking up feeling out of breath
  • Daily morning headaches
  • Dry mouth and sore throat upon waking
  • Chronic daytime fatigue regardless of the number of hours slept
  • Inability to concentrate, memory loss, sudden mood swings, and other changes in behavior
  • Sexual dysfunction or impotence

Types of Sleep Apnea

illustration of sleep apnea

The term “sleep apnea” is commonly used on its own, without any descriptors to acknowledge the type of sleep apnea that a person is suffering from. Typically, when people talk about this condition, they are referring to obstructive sleep apnea. However, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea are also major concerns for some patients. What are the differences between these three forms of the disorder, and how is each one commonly treated? Read on below to find out.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Diagram of airway obstruction during sleep

Obstructive sleep apnea, sometimes known simply as OSA, is the most common form of this condition. It happens when the soft tissues inside the mouth and throat relax enough to block the airway, leading to repeated pauses in breathing (called apneas).

This is by far the most common type of sleep apnea because so many people have risk factors for it. For example, it may be the result of a deviated septum, bite misalignment, excess fat around the neck, or a number of other contributors. It can afflict people of all ages, genders, and body types, though it occurs most commonly in older individuals and those who are obese.

Here at Covington Sleep Center, treating OSA is a major focus of our practice.

Learn More About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea

Exhausted woman sitting on edge of bed

Central sleep apnea, also known as CSA, occurs when the brain stops sending signals to the body to breathe when sleeping. It is much less common than OSA. In fact, according to one estimate, it occurs in less than 1% of adults over age 40. Often, its cause is unknown. However, it is more common in individuals with heart failure and stroke. It is also more likely to occur when an individual is sleeping at a higher altitude.

CSA can be challenging to treat, and oral appliance therapy is not effective for it. If you have this condition, you may need to have an in-depth discussion with your primary care practitioner about your options. You might be told that CPAP therapy could be helpful; a CPAP machine uses pressurized air to help a person breathe throughout the night without interruptions.

Learn More About Central Sleep Apnea

Complex Sleep Apnea

Woman lying in bed, covering her eyes

Complex sleep apnea, also known as combined sleep apnea, occurs when a person exhibits signs of both OSA and CSA. It is even rarer than both of the other forms of sleep apnea.

Complex sleep apnea may be treatable with a CPAP machine. An oral appliance can often work along with the CPAP so it can be used at a lower, more comfortable setting.

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

It’s no secret that diagnosing sleep apnea is difficult, largely because the most common symptoms appear while you’re asleep and unaware of what your body is doing. More often than not, a bed partner is the one to point out your symptoms, such as temporary interruptions in your breathing.

Covington Sleep Center knows that the first step to getting sleep apnea treated is to create a detailed and accurate diagnosis. Our sleep apnea dental office plays a major role in helping you get that. To start, we offer the Epworth Assessment so you can confirm your symptoms. This short quiz asks simple yes or no questions to not only inform you but Dr. Dean and our team as well. It’s the quickest way to assess your current risk for sleep apnea. After you’ve completed it and had a consultation with us, we’ll refer you to a sleep doctor so they can perform a sleep study.

Sleep studies are designed to be non-invasive tests that measure your vital signs as you sleep. It is a medical test performed by sleep doctors, allowing them to confirm the presence of sleep apnea. Sleep studies can be performed either at your home or in a lab depending on your preference. Afterward, you’ll be recommended an appropriate treatment by the doctor. You can return to Covington Sleep Center if you are a viable candidate for oral appliance therapy . Here, Dr. Dean will have you fitted for a custom-made oral appliance.

Take Our Sleep Apnea Quiz

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Is Sleep Apnea Therapy Covered by Insurance?

Sleep apnea dentist talking to patient

Yes, but things can get complicated when it comes to coverage.

More often than not, sleep apnea treatment through the use of an oral appliance is not covered by dental insurance plans, despite the fact that the treatment is provided and managed by a dentist. In reality, sleep apnea treatment is covered by medical insurance because sleep apnea is a medical condition, not a dental problem. However, more dental insurance plans are beginning to cover oral appliance therapy, making the process far more confusing.

That’s why we employ a team of experts at Covington Sleep Center to help you along the way. By choosing us for your oral appliance, we can help you maximize your benefits, regardless of the provider. We’re happy to file claims on your behalf, deal with the paperwork, and walk you through the process, ensuring that your care is more affordable in the end.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea FAQs

Man sleeping peacefully in cozy bed

Dr. Dean and our team are eager to help anyone who is suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Before you partner with us to start your treatment, though, you may want to learn more about this condition and how it is managed. To assist you, we have compiled the following list of FAQs, along with easy-to-understand answers. If your specific questions are not addressed here, give us a call. We will be happy to speak with you!

Does Everyone Who Snores Have Sleep Apnea?

Loud, frequent snoring is a common symptom of OSA. That is because the same tissues that cause vibrations during sleep can block the airway, leading to pauses in breathing.

However, that does not mean that everyone who snores has sleep apnea. For some individuals, snoring is a minor issue. It may occur when they go to bed extra-tired, when they have nasal congestion, or when they drink alcohol too close to bedtime. That type of snoring is usually nothing to be concerned about.

It is also important to keep in mind that just because a person does not snore, that does not necessarily mean they do not have sleep apnea. Anyone who suspects they have a sleep disorder should try to arrange a sleep test so they can receive an official diagnosis.

Can I Diagnose Sleep Apnea on My Own?

Sleep apnea is not self-diagnosable. It is a good idea to monitor the quality of your sleep, whether that is with the help of a smart watch, sleep journal, or other means. If your notes reveal signs and symptoms of OSA, you should speak with a qualified medical professional. After a thorough evaluation, they will recommend your next steps. You might need to undergo a sleep test. It is also possible that there is a completely different medical issue present that requires treatment.

Will My Sleep Apnea Go Away If I Lose Weight?

In many cases, sleep apnea occurs because a person has excess fatty tissue around their airway. This can cause the pauses in breathing that are characteristic of OSA. Therefore, weight loss may reduce or even eliminate symptoms. Often, even a modest reduction in body fat can be very beneficial.

Of course, extra weight is not the only reason why a person may develop OSA. If your condition is unrelated to your body composition, weight loss is unlikely to help.

Who Is Most at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can afflict anyone, regardless of their age, sex, body composition, or lifestyle. However, some groups are more likely to develop this condition than others, including:

  • Men
  • Post-menopausal women
  • Overweight and obese individuals
  • Pregnant women
  • People with an untreated tongue tie