You’ve heard rumors that you’re supposed to wake up refreshed and raring to go in the morning, but you’re beginning to suspect that they’re made up by the same people who post “perfect family” photos on their social media. You feel awful in the morning: groggy, foggy, and irritable. And your throat’s sore, too.
It doesn’t get any better as the day progresses. In fact, you’re better at falling and staying asleep when you’re supposed to be working (or driving) than when you’re supposed to be sleeping.
If you feel tired or unfocused throughout the day, you may have a sleep disorder, called sleep apnea, that affects your breathing. Without treatment, sleep apnea can lead to serious complications, including heart attack, stroke, and an increased risk for accidents, including car crashes.
Dana J. Rockey, DMD, is an expert dentist and sleep specialist who wants you to feel rested, focused, and in the peak of health. If you think you have sleep apnea, he evaluates you in the comfort and privacy of his office at South County Sleep Solutions in Newport Beach, California. If he diagnoses you with sleep apnea, he recommends effective nonsurgical solutions that really work.
Sleep apnea is more than snoring
About 90 million American adults snore at night, and 37 million of them do it regularly. Though there’s strength in numbers, you really don’t want to be part of that crowd. Snoring interrupts your breathing and your sleep.
If you snore repeatedly or wake up gagging, you probably have a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. An apnea is a pause in your breath. If you have sleep apnea, you could stop breathing dozens to hundreds of times per night.
When you stop breathing, you interrupt your flow of oxygen to your brain and other organs. You also usually wake up, which interrupts your sleep, too. That’s why you think that feeling energized in the morning is merely a myth. You don’t feel energized because you never really get to rest well.
Traditional treatments for sleep apnea
If you’ve heard about sleep apnea before, you’re probably familiar with the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It features a mask that connects via a tube to a machine that pumps air into your airway.
The problem with CPAP is that the machine is noisy and the mask and tube are cumbersome. Though you may be getting the air you need for restful sleep, you still may not sleep well because the mask is uncomfortable.
If you don’t want or can’t tolerate CPAP, many doctors recommend surgery. If you have a deviated septum in your nose, or large tonsils or other soft tissues in your throat, a surgeon repairs or removes them. However, surgery comes with its own risks.
Oral appliances for sleep apnea
Dr. Rockey recommends oral appliances for most cases of OSA. By simply wearing a custom-designed “mouthguard” type device, you can correct the alignment of your jaw and tongue to keep your airway open.
Types of oral appliances include:
Mandibular advancement device (MAD)
The MAD snaps over your upper and lower arches. It features a metal hinge that your dentist adjusts to move your jaw forward so that you can sleep without obstructing your airway. The MAD looks a lot like a sports mouthguard.
Tongue retaining device
Used more rarely than the MAD, this splint-like device keeps your tongue down so that it doesn’t block your airway when you sleep.
Dr. Rockey and his team take digital impressions of your teeth and jaw so that your custom-designed device fits you perfectly and comfortably.
Lifestyle adjustments for sleep apnea
If you’re overweight or have unhealthy habits, your lifestyle choices could be affecting your sleep. Dr. Rockey’s mission is to help each of the patients who come to his practice achieve and maintain healthy habits for life.
He may recommend that you:
Obesity is strongly associated with OSA. You could improve the severity of your sleep apnea by 20% just by losing 10% of your body weight. Dr. Rockey helps you accomplish this important health feat with a customized diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle recommendations.
Sleep on your side
When you sleep on your back, your tongue is thrust back into your throat, obstructing your airway. But when you sleep on your side, you’re less likely to snore or gag. That adjustment alone might be enough to improve or even resolve your sleep apnea.
Improve your sleep hygiene
A regular bedtime and awakening time do wonders to normalize your circadian rhythm and help you sleep, whether you need an oral appliance or not. Keep your bedroom dark and cool, and avoid stimulating activities — including screen time and exercise — in the hours before bed.
Quit smoking and reduce alcohol
Cigarettes dry out your oral tissues, including your airway. Smoking also deprives your body of oxygen, which could increase your risk of snoring.
Alcohol interrupts your sleep and contributes to sleep apnea.