I went in to check on my son the other night. Even though he’s 17 I still like to do that. I get teary every time I think about the fact that he’ll be going to college this summer. Which makes the next thing I have to say even more terrifying. He’s always been a snorer, but I noticed he stopped breathing more than once. I’d start to panic and then he’d just start back again. I’ve been doing some research and I think he has something called sleep apnea. Can he die from that? I kept thinking what happens if his body doesn’t start him back breathing. Is there anything I can do to help him?
Maureen L. – Nashville, TN
I understand your fears. All of them. A child leaving home is a very frightening time of life…for the parent anyway. Most of the time, the children themselves are thrilled to pieces. Though even they, very deep down, are a tad nervous.
Your description of your son’s snoring and pattern of halted breathing does sound like sleep apnea. As to whether it can kill him, to scary answer is yes. The dangers of sleep apnea are heart rhythm problems (which sometimes leads to sudden death), elevated blood pressure, and stroke. However, there is good news. Sleep apnea isn’t difficult to treat.
It used to be the only way to treat this condition was the bulky, noisy CPAP machine. It’s quite hard to get teens, especially self-conscious teens starting off at college to wear the device. They don’t want to appear weird in front of their dorm roommates. However, now you can often wear a simple orthotic. It fits like a small sport’s mouthguard and is discreet and noiseless.
The orthotic repositions his jaw to open up the area of the throat where his muscles are collapsing in on themselves. That causes both the snoring and the halted breathing.
Your son likely doesn’t realize how much this is draining him. He’s probably even unaware it’s even happening. But, when he gets the right amount of oxygen he’ll feel much more awake and alert during the day. He’ll even find it easier to concentrate on his studies.
Get him in to see his dentist as soon as you reasonably can to have him fitted for the device. They’re custom designed for his specific bite, which is one of the things that makes them so comfortable.
This blog is brought to you by Dr. Steve Bader.