Obstructive Sleep Apnea is defined as the closure of the upper airway (naso/oral pharynx) by a persons own tissues: The tonsils, adenoids, soft palate and/or tongue during sleep.
The most dominant factor in most Obstructive Sleep Apnea cases is relaxation of the lower jaw during sleep allowing the jaw and tongue to fall back; closing off the airway, causing the person to snore loudly or stop breathing. The result is increased CO2 levels causing the person to wake from sleep gasping for air; followed by daytime fatigue. In most cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea the person never achieves the deeper levels of sleep long enough for the body to renew the reparative hormones that are circulated during the deep sleep cycles.
Because of increased CO2 and, in some cases, low blood oxygen levels associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea many of tissues of the body can be adversely affected, contributing to many other chronic problems such as ADD, depression, anxiety, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, and many other hormone dysfunction issues. Obstructive Sleep Apnea has even been the cause of death in many documented cases.
Most common treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea is CPAP; which is a pressurized air mask that is worn at night. The purpose of CPAP is to create enough pressure in the airway to push the tissues (mostly the tongue) out of the way, allowing air flow to the lungs. In many cases CPAP is a miracle that restores health to a fading system.
When people are intolerant to CPAP, or when CPAP does not work there are some very viable solutions: A Mandibular Advancement Appliance (MAA) or surgical reduction of the offending tissues.
An Alternative to Sleepless Nights
A Mandibular Advancement Appliance is a simple and relatively comfortable oral appliance that holds the lower jaw in a slightly forward position; preventing the jaw and tongue from falling back and closing off the airway. In most cases this appliance eliminates snoring, allows normal breathing and restores blood oxygen levels. The effectiveness of the appliance is assessed with a sleep study (PSG), or at the very minimum an oxygen monitor worn during sleep.
Most patients (about 70%) who use a Mandibular Advancement Appliance report immediate improvement in snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea symptoms including improved sleep, less daytime fatigue and increased clarity and focus during the day. Some patients also find it easier to loose weight, maintain good health and, under the direction of a physician, are able to decrease some medications.
Some patients (about 20%) take a few weeks to get used to the appliance before deeper levels of sleep are achieved, and may still feel tired until accommodation is achieved. However these patients should not give up; decreased CO2 and increased oxygen levels are still being achieved during this transition.
In some cases light snoring may continue even with the Mandibular Advancement Appliance in use. Remember that the Mandibular Advancement Appliance only mitigates the major factor in snoring: The tongue! THIS IS NOT A FAILURE!!! Other minor soft tissues may continue to vibrate creating less audible snoring; however the consequence of intermittent and the normally incomplete blockage created by these minor tissues is generally insignificant compared to the obstruction potential of the tongue. KEEP USING THE APPLIANCE! It is doing the job it was intended to do.