Dr. Avi Weisfogel Explores Common Sleep Disorders

If you have lost count of how many times you have suffered from sleepless nights, interrupted sleep, or poor-quality sleep, then you are certainly not alone. According to the American Sleep Association:

  • Between 50 and 70 million adults in the U.S. have one or more sleep disorders.
  • 9% of adults reported unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once time in the past month.
  • 7% of adults reported falling asleep at the wheel at least once in the last month. Fatigued driving kills around 1,500 people each year and injures an additional 40,000.

Some of the common symptoms of sleep disorders include: lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, memory loss and forgetfulness, diminished productivity and performance at school or work, depression, lack of energy, mood disturbances (e.g. irritability, anger, impulsive actions, etc.), irregular breathing, fatigued driving, and an overall decreased quality of life.

Sleep Disorders

According to Dr. Avi Weisfogel, the founder and owner of the International Academy of Sleep (IAOS), there are over 70 recognized forms of sleep disorders, and among the most common are sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome, respectively.

Insomnia

About 10% of adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic insomnia, which is a debilitating condition that is characterized by: difficulty falling asleep at night, frequently waking up in the middle of the night and having problems falling back asleep, and routinely waking up significantly earlier than desired or planned. Generally, chronic insomnia refers to situations where insomnia continues for at least three weeks, and acute insomnia refers to shorter durations. Dr. Avi Weisfogel notes that many people fluctuate between bouts of acute and chronic insomnia. He also adds that the condition may temporarily alleviate for weeks or months at a stretch before returning.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea (formally referred to as obstructive sleep apnea or OSA) affects about 20 million people in the U.S. However, Dr. Avi Weisfogel notes that as many as 90% of these people are living with undiagnosed and therefore untreated sleep apnea, either because they do not know that they have this debilitating and potentially fatal condition, or they do not realize that it is a serious problem that needs to be assessed by a healthcare professional.

Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in the throat relax during sleep and block the upper respiratory system. A partial blockage typically causes snoring, while a full blockage causes an individual to stop breathing for several seconds during the night. This forced the brain to awaken and triggers violent gasping and hacking, in order to clear the airway and allow oxygen to get into the lungs.

As noted above, many people who undergo this process on a regular basis — and it can happen several times a night — are unaware that it is happening. As such, upon awakening they typically feel exhausted and irritable, but do not know why (or they attribute it to the wrong root cause, such as something they ate or an argument, they had the night before). Furthermore, the burden placed on the respiratory system puts a strain on the heart, which can lead to heart attack, heart arrhythmia, heart failure, and other serious and potentially fatal cardiological problems.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common neurological disorder that compels people to constantly move their legs, feet, and possibly other body parts during sleep. The compulsion is triggered by sensations such as itching, aching, burning, throbbing and pulling. Understandably, the constant need to shift position wreaks havoc on sleep quality. As with sleep apnea, many people who suffer from restless leg syndrome are unaware that they have a clinical condition for which treatment and medications are available. Dietary and lifestyle changes may also alleviate or eliminate symptoms.

Getting Help

If you know or believe that you are suffering from one of these or any other sleep disorders, then speak with your primary care physician. A growing number of dentists are also offering their patients sleep apnea assessments. Adds Dr. Avi Weisfogel: it is a mistake for people to assume that sleep disorders correct themselves over time, or that poor quality sleep is something that they must learn to live with and accept. Neither of these are true. The problem is serious, and help is available.

The Role of Dentists in Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Disorders

Do you often find yourself waking up tired despite getting enough sleep? Have you been told that you snore loudly and often? If that is the case, you may have sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders. Dr. Avi Weisfogel dives into the subject of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that goes undiagnosed much too often, and explains how your dentist can help if you think you may suffer from this disease.

Sleep Apnea – A Common Sleep Disorder

Sleep apnea is characterized by a blocked upper respiratory system during sleep, resulting in heavy snoring and even choking. Pauses in breathing can be as short as a few seconds or as long as minutes and can occur as much as 30 times per hour.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, about 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Although this sleep disorder is gaining more recognition, many people are still unaware of the life-damaging and life-shortening effects of this disease – in fact, it is estimated that 80% of people suffering from moderate or severe sleep apnea have not been diagnosed.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

This sleep disorder is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue
  • Insomnia or sleep deprivation
  • Heavy snoring or mouth breathing
  • Periods of no breathing during sleep
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Headaches
  • Irritability

These symptoms are caused by the restricted oxygen brought on by a blocked respiratory system.

Dr. Avi Weisfogel stresses the dangers of sleep apnea – since this disease often goes undiagnosed, too many people live with its consequences during long periods of time and suffer life-shortening consequences such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Accidents caused by falling asleep (automobile or at work)

Consult Your Dentist

Dr Avi Weisfogel Dentist

If you think you may have sleep apnea, Dr. Avi Weisfogel highly recommends consulting with your dentist for diagnosis and treatment because your oral health could be linked to the condition. For instance, if your tongue is too large or your jaw is too small, this can cause airway obstructions and be at the root of a blocked respiratory system causing pauses in breathing.

In addition, the first signs of sleep apnea can have a direct on your oral health. As an example, people suffering from sleep apnea often grind their teeth, meaning a dentist can look for signs of wear on your teeth’s surface as well as inflamed and receding gums.

Suggested Treatment

If your dentist diagnoses you with sleep apnea, he or she may suggest different types of treatment depending on the severity of your symptoms.

One of the most successful treatments of moderate and severe sleep apnea is the use of airway pressure machines during sleep – this consists of wearing a mask delivering oxygen through the nasal cavity during the night.

However, your dentist may suggest lifestyle changes such as weight loss and reduced alcohol consumption, and in extreme cases, surgery.

Dr. Avi Weisfogel urges you to trust your dentist when it comes to the treatment of sleep apnea. Although some procedures may be difficult to get used to, many people see a huge improvement in their quality of life when sleep apnea is controlled.

 

 

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

As a former dentist and an expert in the field of sleep disorders, Dr. Avi Weisfogel outlines some of the most common methods of treating sleep apnea:

If you believe you may have sleep apnea it’s best to go see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will assess the type and severity of the condition and prescribe a treatment options based upon that.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. This treatment option is a mode of respiratory ventilation involving the use of a specially designed mask. This mask is connected to a pump that continuously pumps air through the nasal passage to keep the airway open.

 Oral Appliances

There are currently over 100 different oral devices available for the treatment of sleep apnea. There oral appliances are worn in the mouth similar to the way that a sports mouth guard is worn or an orthodontic device. These oral appliances are designed to hold the lower jaw forward and keep the airway open, preventing the tongue and upper airway muscles from collapsing. Oral appliances are often used as a first line of treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. After assessing your sleep apnea, your dentist will pick the oral appliance best suited for you.

Surgery

Several different surgical options can be pursued for more severe cases of sleep apnea. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), is the most common sleep apnea surgical procedure. This procedure involves removing excess tissue from the soft palate and pharynx and adding in sutures to keep the airway open. UPPP is highly effective and has been the go-to surgical procedure for many cases of sleep apnea over the last 25 years.

Nasal surgery is also a common surgical treatment for sleep apnea. There are three common areas of the nose that can contribute to sleep apnea: the septum, the turbinates, and the nasal valve. Common nasal surgical procedures for treating sleep apnea involve straightening the septum and reducing the size of the turbinates. Nasal airways are increased and breathing becomes easier as a result.

The Pillar Procedure

Soft palate implants, commonly known as the Pillar Procedure is an effective and minimally invasive treatment option for more mild cases of sleep apnea. Three polyester rods are placed in the soft palate which initiate an inflammatory response of the soft tissue in the area. The soft palate thus becomes stiffer, reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea.

 

 

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that thousands of Americans suffer from. While sleep apnea can take several different forms, all involve the interruption of breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times every night. The three main forms of sleep apnea are: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea:

Dr. Avi Weisfogel Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It occurs when a person’s throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep. Snoring is a common sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Other symptoms include:

  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased libido
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening

 

Central Sleep Apnea

Dr. Avi Weisfogel Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea, a less common form of sleep apnea than obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the brain doesn’t send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Abrupt awakenings during the night
  • Shortness of breath relieved by sitting upright
  • Chest pain during the night
  • Snoring
  • Mood changes
  • Insomnia

 

Complex Sleep Apnea

Dr. Avi Weisfogel Complex Sleep Apnea

Complex sleep apnea, also known as mixed sleep apnea, is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Complex sleep apnea often develops as a result of using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) as a treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It shares many of the same symptoms as both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Dr. Avi Weisfogel is an expert in treating sleep apnea and the founder of Dental Sleep MBA.

The Basics of Sleep Apnea