Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Treating Sleep Apnea in Rockford, IL

Sleep apnea is an often-undiagnosed breathing disorder that affects the quality of your sleep and can have a negative effect on your health. Patients who suffer from sleep apnea experience prolonged interruptions in their breathing while they sleep (up to 40 seconds). With less oxygen in the blood stream, a host of medical complications can occur. Sleep apnea occurs when the flow of air from the nostrils and mouth is stopped. Snoring results from vibration of the partially collapsed soft palate as air passes. Sleep apnea and snoring treatment can help our patients get the rest they need in order to reduce the medical complications and function better during the day.

Please read the sections below to learn more about sleep apnea and snoring treatment, including sleep apnea/snoring oral appliances at our Rockford, Illinois office.

Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when air is unable to flow in and out of a person’s nose, mouth and lungs, and can occur for a variety of reasons. In some, apnea occurs when the tongue and throat muscles relax and block the airway. Those who are obese can also suffer from sleep apnea when an excess amount of tissue blocks the airway, restricting air flow through the throat.

Regardless of the specific cause of your sleep apnea, breathing becomes increasingly labored and noisy and stops when the airway is blocked. Sleep partners will hear no breath sounds while the airway is blocked. When the brain registers that not enough oxygen is being received, the individual partially awakens with a loud snort or gasp, and the obstruction in the airway is cleared. When the person falls back asleep, the cycle starts all over again, almost always accompanied by snoring between apnea episodes. This can occur up to 20 to 30 times per hour.

Low levels of oxygen and fragmented sleep combine to create a host of health and concentration problems, including loss of energy and productivity, strokes, and higher frequency of accidents both in the workplace and on the road. In addition, heart problems, such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and heart attack, are associated with the disorder. Luckily, sleep apnea and snoring treatment at our Rockford office can help reduce episodes of sleep apnea and their negative consequences.

Sleep Apnea/CPAP Failure/Snoring Treatment

Since sleep apnea episodes occur while sufferers are asleep or only partially awake, they often do not realize they have a problem. In many cases, sleep apnea and snoring treatment is sought at our Rockford practice at the request of spouses or partners. Many nights when they stop breathing, sleep partners anxiously wonder "when are they going to start breathing again."

The first phase in sleep apnea and snoring treatment is to determine the severity of your condition. Patients work with a medical team comprised of their sleep physician and Dr. Varland to determine which course of therapy is best for them.

In order to diagnose sleep apnea, patients undergo a polysomnogram, which is a test that records a variety of factors while you sleep, such as air flow, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and brain activity. This test can be arranged through your family physician with a sleep physician. Based on your medical history, a physical examination, and the results of the polysomnogram, the sleep physician will recommend a customized treatment plan for you that will include CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or oral appliance therapy.

In mild cases, changes in behavior may be all that is needed to relieve the symptoms of sleep apnea. For instance, avoiding the use of alcohol, tobacco, and sleeping pills before bed, losing weight, or sleeping on your side are all ways to reduce the occurrence of sleep apnea episodes.

For moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, a type of therapy called nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most effective method of treatment. With this method, the patient wears a mask over the mouth that promotes a constant flow of air through the airway. Surgery is sometimes used, but is not completely successful or without risk.

For mild to moderate sleep apnea, snoring treatment, and those that cannot tolerate CPAP, physicians often recommend an oral appliance. Specially trained dentists such as Dr. Varland can select the best oral appliance for you based on dental and airway factors.

To schedule a consultation for sleep apnea/snoring treatment in Rockford, contact Dr. David Varland’s practice.

Sleep Apnea/Snoring Oral Appliance

Worn during sleep, oral appliances used for the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea are designed to stop the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat from blocking the flow of air. These devices look similar to an orthodontic retainer or a mouth guard worn while participating in sports. Sleep apnea/snoring oral appliances can be used alone or in combination with other treatments. Patients often prefer oral appliances over other treatment options because they are non-invasive, small, comfortable, and easy to transport. In addition, a high-quality oral appliance is durable and will be customized to fit your mouth.

You may benefit from a sleep apnea/snoring oral appliance if you:

• Snore or have mild to moderate sleep apnea, and have not responded to behavioral measures, such as losing weight or changing sleep position.
• Have moderate to severe sleep apnea and have not responded well to therapy with CPAP.
• Are not a candidate for any of the surgeries used to treat sleep apnea, such as tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or jaw surgery.

How Do Oral Appliances Work?

When used properly, oral appliances work by strategically positioning the lower jaw forward and increasing the muscle tone of the tongue and throat. This helps keep the airway open and unobstructed. It is similar to the jaw repositioning that opens the airway during CPR. Due to the unique nature of each patient’s mouth, your sleep apnea/snoring oral appliance will be custom made for you to ensure the perfect fit and positioning of the jaw.

While there are a number of different oral appliances available, Dr. Varland favors mandibular advancement devices, which stabilize the lower jaw, mandible, in a protruded position. Recent studies have shown custom-made, adjustable mandibular advancement devices to be very effective in reducing snoring and improving the quality of sleep.

These meticulously-crafted devices are worn over the teeth. They work by holding your lower jaw in a position that is slightly forward of your natural bite. This tightens the soft tissue at the back of the throat, halting the vibrations that cause snoring and opening the airway to reduce sleep apnea.

Oral appliances can be used with patients that grind or clench their teeth, have very small mouths or severe gag reflexes. Which appliance is right for you is determined by history, oral examination, and discussion with the patient. Each appliance is FDA approved, custom-made, fits inside the mouth and allows for talking and lip closure for a more natural feel to your sleep.

For more information on how sleep apnea/snoring oral appliances can aid in your treatment, contact Dr. David Varland.