Category Archives: Sleep Apnea

My Wife’s Worried I’m Going to Die in My Sleep

Can you help put my wife’s mind at ease? She’s convinced I’m going to die in my sleep because she says I stop breathing. Obviously, I’m not or I wouldn’t be alive, but I can’t convince her. The last two nights she didn’t sleep because she kept watching me breathe and shaking me awake when she thought I’d stopped. I can’t keep going like this and neither can she. She wants me to see a dentist for sleep apnea but I think I’d know if something like that was going on.

Alan

Dear Alan,

man snoring keeping wife awake
One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring

Let’s pause a second and think about the fact that our wives love us so much they’re willing to lose sleep out of fear we’re not okay. Though, their worry can drive us what my daughter calls “banana balls”, the intent is something to be grateful for.

As to whether or not you can stop breathing in your sleep without realizing it, you actually can. In fact, patients with sleep apnea can do that many times a night without knowing.

Here’s what happens. When someone lays down, especially on their backs, the muscles in the back of their throat can sometimes relax, partially blocking the airway. This often results in snoring because you end up vibrating the muscles. You may ask your wife if you sometimes snore. Though, I’m pretty sure she’d have complained about that by now so you’d know.

What you’re likely dealing with is something known as obstructive sleep apnea. This is when those muscles completely block the airway. You stop breathing, but your brain realizes that and then jolts you awake. Though, you don’t wake up all the way, which is why you don’t realize it’s happening. Instead, you wake up just enough to adjust your mouth and thereby your throat and start breathing again.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

mandibular device

Many patients have found relief from sleep apnea by using a CPAP machine while they sleep. But, they’re loud and bulky so just as many patients hate them. Instead of a CPAP, I prefer to start with using a mandibular advancement device, such as the one pictured directly above. They fit a lot like a sports mouth guard and have much better patient satisfaction.

It gently glides your lower jaw into proper position while you sleep, thereby keeping your airway unobstructed giving you a great night’s sleep. If this works for a patient, there’s no reason to try something else.

So, while you don’t feel there’s a problem there could be. It wouldn’t hurt to have a sleep study done because as you’re not likely to die in your sleep from it, sleep apnea does cause heart problems.

This blog is brought to you by Newton Dentist Dr. Steve Bader.

Can a Dentist Really Stop Sleepiness?

I feel a little foolish contacting a dentist about this, but I’m absolutely desperate. I am exhausted all the time. I’m getting plenty of sleep so that is not the problem. Yet, when I wake up I feel like I’ve hardly slept a wink. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m being kidnapped by interdimensional aliens at night, like that Star Trek Next Generation episode. My friend at church told me that she was having the same thing and her dentist gave her something to put in her mouth while she slept. Ever since then, she’s been well rested when she wakes up in the morning. Can a dentist do that for me too?

Sleepy Sarah

Dear Sleepy Sarah,

Child sleeping mouth open
Sleep Apnea can Cause Excessive Sleepiness

I’m sorry you’re feeling so exhausted. That’s a horrible way to exist because you so often feel like you’re having to drag yourself through life just to barely keep up. It’s a chore just to put one foot in front of the other. Being sleepy has a negative impact on just about every part of your life— family, work, even your health.

Fortunately, there’s no reason to feel foolish in asking a dentist for help with this. There is a good possibility you’re suffering from sleep apnea. A dentist is the perfect person to go to for treatment.

Sleep Apnea and Exhaustion

With sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of your throat close up, cutting off your oxygen. This stops you from breathing momentarily. Your body, recognizing this, startles you awake just enough to get you breathing again. This can happen over and over throughout the night. No wonder you’re tired when you wake up!

You’ll likely need a sleep study to see if this is what’s going on with you. Often you can get your doctor to write you a prescription for the study so it doesn’t cost you very much. If it turns out you do have sleep apnea, your friend is right. A simple orthotic device from your dentist may be all you need to get you back to a full night’s rest.

Dr. Bader is a big believer in starting with the least invasive treatment first. This device is like wearing a custom-fitted sport’s mouth guard. But, it’s designed to gently move your jaw into a position which keeps the muscles in the back of your throat from obstructing your airway. This gives you all the oxygen your body needs along with a full night’s rest.

This blog is brought to you by Boston Holistic Dentist Dr. Steve Bader.

I’m Tired All the Time – Help

I’m tired all the time, even during the day, even during a good night’s sleep. I’ve been to doctor after doctor. They say I’m fine. I’m not. I can barely stay awake some days. I know you’re a dentist, not a medical doctor, but I’m hoping you have an idea outside of the box. I feel like all the doctors are doing is checking off boxes. I feel stupid asking, but I’m desperate.

Julia

Dear Julia,

I’m sorry you’re facing this and feeling not listened to during a difficult time. The first thing I’ll ask is if your doctor checked your thyroid levels and if he did it using free T3 and free T4 readings? If he hasn’t, start there. If he already has, then I have a strong suspicion you have sleep apnea.

You can learn more about this condition on our “Sleep Apnea Page”.

Three illustations: Mild sleep apnea Ileft), Obstructive sleep apnea (center), Repaired sleep apnea (right)

If you look at the three images above, it will give you a good understanding of what could be going on with you. The first image (on the left) shows a mild blockage of your breathing passage. This generally causes snoring. I don’t know if you’re a snorer or not, but that is often one of the first signs of someone struggling with sleep apnea. The center image shows a bigger blockage. This is known as severe sleep apnea.

What’s happening is your breathing passage is being blocked, cutting off your oxygen. Your body subconsciously recognizes this is happening and startles you awake so your passage will open again. This can happen hundreds of times a night. You won’t even realize it’s happening.

If that’s what going on, no wonder you’re exhausted!

Do You have Sleep Apnea?

The first thing you’ll want to do is have a sleep study done. This is usually covered by insurance with a prescription from your doctor. Most are willing to write one without any fuss.

With a sleep study, you’ll be monitored for an evening and they’ll observe your sleep patterns. If you have sleep apnea, they’ll be able to tell you.

From there, it’s just a trip to your dentist where he can custom design an orthotic device to move your jaw into its appropriate place to keep your breathing passage clear while you sleep. Because it’s custom fit for your bite, it will be perfectly comfortable.

Don’t try to do this with a cheap over-the-counter orthotic. It can do serious damage to your bite, leading to TMJ Disorder.

I hope this helps you get the relief you need. This blog is brought to you by Newton Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Steve Bader.

Travelling with Sleep Apnea

I’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea and my dentist gave me this CPAP machine. I usually travel a lot, especially by air. I can’t imagine they’ll let me take this on the airplane. Is it possible to travel with a CPAP when you have sleep apnea?

Carl.

Dear Carl,

an oral appliance for sleep apnea
If you have sleep apnea, there are alternatives to a CPAP.

Though sleep apnea can be a bit of a nuisance, you will find that once your treatment is going regularly and you’re getting to breathe all the way through the night, you’ll wake up much more refreshed and energetic.

You are able to travel by air with a CPAP, but it does take some preparation ahead of time. When you purchase your ticket, you’ll need to be sure they give you a seat by an outlet for your CPAP. It’s hard to get the distilled water through security because of the limitations on liquid these days. However, you can get a prescription for pharmacy grade distilled water and that will allow you to take it on board. You will also need to have some disinfectant wipes with you. The security scanners aren’t exactly what we’d call sterile, so you’ll need to wipe everything down again before you use it.

Be aware, TSA regulations change all the time. It’s in your best interest to check their site and see if they’ve made any other regulations that have hoops you need to jump through to get on the plane without a nice pat down by some stranger in a uniform.

Sleep Apnea Alternatives to CPAP

I don’t know if your dentist mentioned that there are now alternatives to a CPAP machine. These will allow you travel without all those complications. Using an oral appliance, you can breathe freely without needing a machine to help you.

Many patients fall in love with their oral appliance and find it so much more comfortable that they use it full time instead of just when they’re traveling. You may want to schedule an appointment with your dentist well ahead of your next trip and get fitted for a device. This way you can try it out at home where you have your CPAP as a backup to see if it works for you. It may change your life. You can read Dr. Bader’s Sleep Apnea Page to learn more.

This blog is brought to you by Boston Holistic Dentist Dr. Steve Bader.

Why Send Me to a Dentist for Being Tired?

I’m a little frustrated. I’ve been telling my doctor I’m tired all the time for months. He did some blood work where everything turned out fine. Now he’s not taking me seriously. I persisted, but he said to see a dentist about my sleep habits. What would a dentist have to do with that?

Miriam

Dear Miriam,

man snoring keeping wife awake
One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring

I would be willing to bet that your doctor wants you to get a sleep study done, though usually that is done through a prescription from your doctor. Your dentist can get you a sleep study too. It mostly depends on what your insurance requires.

The study can help reveal if you have sleep apnea. As the picture above states, snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. So is being tired. That’s especially true if you wake up tired after a full nights sleep.

How Can a Dentist Help Sleep Apnea?

If sleep apnea is the cause of your exhaustion, your dentist can custom design an orthotic which will position your jaw in a proper position so that your body receives the proper amount of oxygen while you sleep. This will allow you to wake refreshed, probably for the first time in a long time.

You’ll want to get your bite evaluated as well. Some recent research has found a link between TMJ Disorder and sleep apnea.

I haven’t examined you, so there is no way I can begin to tell you if either is an issue for you, but those would be some reasons to see your dentist.

I know it’s frustrating when your caregivers can’t seem to figure out what is going wrong with your body. Some medical practitioners go into medicine thinking we know most things and can fix people. When they bump up against something that doesn’t fit with what they know, they get frustrated as well. Some react to that by making the patient feel like it is in their head.

It might help you to see a holistic dentist. They’re a little better at working with people who’ve had trouble diagnosing what’s going on with them. That’s more because they consider the whole body’s health and not just your teeth.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Steve Bader.

Can Children Have Sleep Apnea?

My husband and I were watching a movie the other night and heard something seriously weird. We went upstairs to discover my first grader snoring like a drunken pirate. My husband looked at me and said, “The snoring is strong with this one.” He thought it was funny but I’m concerned. I went in to watch her after the movie and it seemed to me like she stopped breathing a couple of times. Can children have sleep apnea?

Amanda H.

Dear Amanda,

Child sleeping mouth open
Snoring is often a sign of sleep apnea.

There are many things which can cause snoring in children. The obvious one is a cold or upper respiratory infection. But, if your child is otherwise healthy, then snoring is a big sign she may have sleep apnea. Even if the snoring is strong with her, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll have to look and sound like Darth Vader with a CPAP machine. There are less bulky and scary solutions.

Speak with a dentist about what you’ve noticed in her sleeping. He’ll likely order a sleep study. The breathing issue you saw is common with sleep apnea as well. In fact, it’s possible that she is doing that many times per night. You’ll notice, even when she has a full night’s sleep she’s a little tired throughout the day.

Is Sleep Apnea Hard to Treat?

Many times you can get a doctor’s prescription for your child’s sleep study, which will help offset the cost. A good dentist will start with the easiest treatment options first. Often, a child’s sleep apnea can be solved by a simple orthotic which fits like a custom designed mouth-guard. It doesn’t always have to be worn for long. Plus, as her jaw develops you may find this solves itself.

It wouldn’t hurt to have her looked at by an orthodontist as well to see if her bite development is an issue. The earlier treatment is planned for those type of things, the smoother and less expensive the procedure will cost you, especially if you can limit the phases of treatment.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Steve Bader.

My Heart Doctor Wants Me to Get Checked for Sleep Apnea

I was sent to a heart doctor because my heart rate has jumped significantly. I’ve had tachycardia on a regular basis. After a consultation, he said the first thing he want’s me to do is get a sleep study. He feels certain I have sleep apnea. What does that have to do with heart problems?

Mila Y

Dear Mila,

Boston Sleep Apnea

Believe it or not, a great many heart problems are caused by untreated sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, the tissue in the back of your throat relaxes while you sleep. In the process, it blocks your breathing passage, depriving you of oxygen. Your body realizes you’re no longer breathing and wakes you up. You wake up with a start (just enough to get a breath) and generally fall back asleep without even realizing you’d stopped breathing and woken up. This cycle can repeat many times throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times.

You can imagine the type of stress this puts on your heart. It has to pump significantly more in order to make up for the lost oxygenation to your body. If you deal with the sleep apnea, you give your heart the needed rest, which should bring your heart rate back to normal.

A sleep study can tell you a lot. If sleep apnea isn’t the problem, there are other reasons for tachycardia, so there are other things for your cardiologist to look out. But, you always want to eliminate the least invasive solutions first, if they seem like a possibility. One symptom of sleep apnea is snoring.

Why do a heart ablation if a simple orthotic device, while you’re sleeping, will solve the problem?

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Steve Bader.

Why Is My Heart Doctor Sending Me to My Dentist?

I’ve had an elevated heart beat and my doctor sent me to a heart specialist. I saw her and she said the problem is sleep apnea and I need to see a dentist. How could any of that affect my heart?

Emily P.

Dear Emily,

Sleep apnea does contribute to heart problems. What happens is you stop breathing over and over again throughout the night. Your body recognizes you’re no longer getting oxygen and wakes you up. It doesn’t wake you up all the way though. It just startles you awake enough to cause you to start breathing again.

Unfortunately, this can happen literally hundreds of time a night. The amount of time you lack oxygen then wake up puts stress on your heart.

I’m assuming your heart doc did some type of sleep study on you to confirm you actually have sleep apnea. If not, she’s making assumptions which aren’t safe for you.

Talk to your dentist. He or she can arrange for you to get a sleep study done. Often, it’s covered by medical insurance. Your dentist can work with your doctor to get you a prescription for one.

If the results show you have sleep apnea, then your dentist can fit you with an orthotic to help you breathe freely throughout the night.  You’ll likely find you’re a lot less tired and you feel much better throughout the day once this is dealt with.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Steve Bader.

Can Sleep Apnea Kill My Son?

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

Maureen,

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.

Can You Save My Marriage?

I’ve been married for a few weeks and haven’t slept since. My husband snores like you would not believe. I’m becoming grumpy. We had our first fight and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t so sleep deprived. My sister said her husband used to snore and her dentist stopped it. I’m not sure how a dentist can fix that, but I’m willing to try anything.

LeeAnne S. – Colorado

LeeAnne,

First, I’ll say congratulations on your marriage! Don’t worry about the fight. All couples fight.  The important thing is to keep remembering why you love one another.

If your husband is snoring, it’s possible the cause is sleep apnea.  It has to do with the muscles relaxing at the back of his throat. A dentist who treats sleep apnea can custom fit an oral device that will gently reposition his bite so the passageway is cleared, stopping the snoring.

On top of you getting some sleep, your husband will start feeling more energetic as well.  He won’t even realize it, but sleep apnea will interrupt his breathing and sleeping pattern over and over throughout the night.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Steve Bader.