Drive Safe: Treat Your Sleep Apnea
That was close. You were drifting across the centerline.
The truck driver coming the other way really looked angry as he passed you, too.
If you are being honest with yourself you don’t blame him. You were dozing off again behind the wheel.
You’ve never told your wife about this, but you are starting to worry. It seems to be happening more often.
You doze off behind the wheel. Usually, you hit the rumble strips and that wakes you up. Other times, it’s the honk as you start to drift into the other lane. That — and the looks from other drivers — wake you up fast.
You are starting to wonder if there might be some reason this keeps happening.
One possibility is a sleep disorder called sleep apnea .
Sleep Apnea And Auto Accidents
At Hubbard & Leath Dental in Rochester Hills, MI, we don’t just care about our patients’ teeth. We care about our patients and their families.
We can’t help with every issue that may come up, but we may be able to help if you have sleep apnea. To be more specific, we can and have helped individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is the most common type.
One of the common symptoms of sleep apnea is daytime sleepiness. If this has affected you, then you know it can occur at any time — at your desk, at home while you are watching the game, on the road behind the wheel of your car.
A study published in the journal Sleep last year found that people were 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in an automotive accident if they had sleep apnea. The study also found that people who treated their sleep apnea reduced their risk of causing an accident by 70 percent compared to people who did not treat their condition.
We would much rather help you so you can stay alert during the day. We may be able to do that by creating an oral appliance, which is a kind of mouthguard, that you can wear while you sleep. We’ll explain more about how this works later in this post.
Sleep Apnea And Sleep Deprivation
The reason you feel so tired when you have untreated sleep apnea is because you aren’t getting deep, healthy sleep.
Throughout the night, a person who is getting healthy sleep with go through various stages of sleep.
The early stages are considered light sleep. At this time, you can be awakened easily, but they also serve as a transition from being awake to the stages of deep sleep.
In the deeper stages, your body goes through some changes. Your heart rate slows, and your brain patterns change. You may slip into REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. This is the stage when you dream.
Health experts believe that the stages of deep sleep are important in helping us recover and recuperate. If you have untreated sleep apnea, you may not be reached the stages of deep as often as you should … if you are reaching them at all.
When you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing when you fall asleep. With OSA, this is because the muscles around your airways relax and the tissue obstructs your breathing.
This leads to another of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea: loud, persistent snoring.
When your airways are completely obstructed, you can stop breathing for up to 30 seconds at a time. If you have mild sleep apnea, this may happen up to 14 times per hour. (People with severe sleep apnea can stop breathing more than 30 times per hour.)
How does your body respond to this problem? It wakes you up over and over again. This prevents you from reaching the deep stages of sleep.
How An Oral Appliance Can Help
If you have OSA, an oral appliance could help if you have trouble with a CPAP machine.
The purpose of both treatments is to keep your breathing so you don’t wake up (and you don’t snore). An oral appliance does this by shifting the position of your jaw.
By moving your jaw forward, your airways are more likely to remain open. This can help you keep breathing, so you can get the deep, healthy, and restful sleep that you need.
The dentists at Hubbard & Leath Dental in Rochester Hills, MI, would be happy to help however we can. We may be able to help you arrange a sleep study if you suspect that you have sleep apnea, and if you have already been diagnosed, we can see if you are a good candidate for an oral appliance.