We take our breathing for granted, don’t we? When was the last time you thought about the next breath you were going to take? Exactly. Our brain stem controls our breathing. Carbon dioxide builds in our blood stream and the stimulus is there for us to breathe. It is only when our breathing is a problem that we seem to appreciate what it does for us. As a doctor of dentistry, I have had an acute recognition of breathing’s importance for over thirty years. It is only recently that I have taken hold of breathing’s importance during sleep. The night is prelude to the day; a bad night’s sleep can lead to a wasteful day. Ever ‘pull’ an all-nighter in college or at work? How did you feel the next day? Not so good. Many dentists have gotten involved with nocturnal breathing; making oral appliances that assist in keeping the airway open during sleep. It is when the breathing apparatus is interrupted that all sorts of physiological changes will occur.
Sudden Cardiac Death. The airway is obstructed, the heart rate increases significantly and the heart cannot manage the stress and stops. But there are so many different scenarios in apnea, some very obvious and others that I equate more like a Chinese water torture. The first drop is barely noticeable, but by the gazillionth drop… When the airway is closed or obstructed, a desaturation of oxygen in the blood can occur. The first desat that a person experiences is probably of short duration and of little consequence. But if this goes unattended for night after night, year after year, the effects could be highly significant. I recently had a forty-five year old patient say to me that he wasn’t ready to look at his apnea now but he will when he is fifty. The effects are cumulative and the earlier the treatment, the fewer the symptoms. Hypertension, stroke, diabetes, as well as daytime sleepiness are just some of the symptoms.
So a sleep study is important. This can be done in a sleep center or at home. The essential part of this is the diagnosis. Is there apnea? Is it mild, moderate or severe? Are there desaturations? If so, how low does the O2 level go and for how long? What is the sleep pattern like? There are so many variables involved in sleep that no two people are the same.
Getting the proper diagnosis and treatment is what is most important. If you, or someone you know, snores, gets headaches, has restless nights, daytime sleepiness and/or has a family history of apnea, getting evaluated is as easy taking a home monitor test. Properly treated apnea can make a huge difference in someone’s quality of life. Don’t wait five years.
Thanks for visiting. Sleep well. 🙂