Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing for ten or more seconds at a time during sleep. When these breathing cessations occur, the body triggers you to awaken and restart breathing. This can happen 100s of times a night for sleep apnea sufferers. If you’ve been experiencing some of the warning signs of sleep apnea, like loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, and weight gain, your doctor may encourage you to seek out a sleep study. These studies tell your physician a lot about your sleep habits, and they can help make an accurate sleep disorder diagnosis. Before you get started, read this post to learn a little bit more about what a sleep study is and what you can expect from the process.
1 – There are Two Main Types
You can typically choose between an in-office and an at-home study. In-office studies are technically superior as they use higher quality, more sensitive technologies. However, as anyone who has ever taken an in-office sleep study can attest, they may not be accurately capturing the way you sleep. Sleeping in a strange place with odd sights and sounds hooked up to wires and machines is not necessarily a common occurrence for most patients. At-home studies use less sensitive monitoring equipment that might not provide the same in-depth analysis, but because you’ll be sleeping in more natural conditions, the study may offer a more accurate look at how you sleep.
2 – They Don’t Just Look for Sleep Apnea
Sleep studies monitor every aspect of sleep. From the total sleep time (TST) to the four sleep stages, your sleep study will produce a report that can be thousands of pages long with numbers and acronyms that could stymie any doctor. Lucky for you, these reports are converted to readable numbers that your physician can use to accurately diagnosis a number of disorders including central and obstructive sleep apnea, hypersomnia, cataplexy, narcolepsy, and more.
3 – Quantity of Sleep & Quality of Sleep are Both Important
There are four stages of sleep, and you will naturally cycle through each stage multiple times during sleep. One of the main problems experienced by sleep apnea sufferers is too much time spent in the early stages of sleep and not enough in the deep, regenerative sleep stages. This occurs because sleep apnea causes the body to awaken repeatedly. Each time you awaken, your body has to move back through the four stages of sleep. Patients with non-disordered sleep patterns spend about 20% of their sleep in the last two stages. Patients who suffer from sleep apnea, may not reach the restorative deep stages of sleep at all, and those who do achieve stage three or four sleep will only do so for about 5 to 10% of their TST.
4 – CPAP is Not Your Only Option
Many sleep doctors encourage patients to seek treatment using the traditional CPAP system. These treatments use a face mask to force pressurized air through the mouth and/or nose during sleep. This prevents patients from experiencing apnea events, and helps them achieve both higher quantities and better quality of sleep. Unfortunately, many patients find themselves unable to adjust to their CPAP systems. Studies indicate about 50% of patients are CPAP intolerant. Luckily, there are other solutions, including comfortable oral appliances.
5 – A Trip to the Dentist May be in Order
You may not immediately think of visiting the dentist when you receive a sleep apnea diagnosis, but for many patients, a trip to the dentist is the best option. Dental practitioners complete advanced education that allows them to understand the workings of the oral and facial structures, and that includes the airway. Dentists can create a comfortable sleep apnea appliance that gently shifts the jaw forward, placing pressure on the throat muscles that holds the airway open during sleep.
Meet Dr. Dreher
At the Integrative Sleep Center in Ballston Spa, Fred Dreher, DDS and his dedicated dentistry team offer advanced oral appliance and combined CPAP and appliance therapy for patients. If you experience any of the sleep apnea warning signs, you can give our office a call right away. We will start by scheduling a consultation and evaluation appointment. During this initial visit, we’ll review your symptoms and help you determine whether or not you need to schedule a sleep study. If you do decided to move forward with further analysis, we will partner with you in scheduling an in-office or at-home study, help you understand the findings, and work with you to create a treatment plan that meets your needs.