Sleep apnea is known as the silent killer. Most are totally unaware they have an issue until major symptoms appear. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that about 20 million Americans have sleep apnea, but around 90 percent may not know it.Fatigue, high blood pressure and weight gain are some of its more well known symptoms. Sleep apnea occurs when the tongue, tonsils, or other throat tissue blocks the airway, stopping breathing. Sleep apnea is often misunderstood regarding its risks and possible treatments. Recent studies should give alarm to men and women as untreated sleep apnea can lead to erectile dysfunction in men and loss of libido in women.
It is believed that the sex hormones (like testosterone) are the culprit. It is well known that testosterone levels rise and fall depending on amount of sleep a person has. More sleep equals higher levels of testosterone and less sleep equals a lowering in testosterone. Since sleep apnea disrupts sleep, it is believed to directly affect the sex hormones and the result is sexual dysfunction.
Recent studies have followed women and men to discover the correlation between sleep apnea and sex hormones. Multiple studies have found that the sleep apnea patients had significantly higher rates of sexual dysfunction. In fact for men almost 70% of sleep apnea sufferers had some form of erectile dysfunction (non sleep apnea sufferers were in the 30% range).
Can Sexual Dysfunction And Sleep Apnea Be Overcome?
The researchers also found that with treatment many overcame their sexual dysfunction. Unfortunately for some, it did not go away with sleep apnea treatment. Researchers believe this is because of overlapping symptoms between the two. Both conditions are associated with age, high blood pressure, and diabetes, which may blur the true relationship between sleep apnea and sexual dysfunction. So at this time researchers are unsure of the direct link and more research will be needed.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Sleep apnea needs to be diagnosed by a physician usually in a sleep clinic. Some of the possible treatments include:
–At Home Treatment. Mild cases of sleep apnea can be treated at home with lifestyle changes. These changes can include:
- Weight Loss.
- Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills.
- Modifying sleep position to improve breathing. Avoid sleeping on your back.
- Quitting smoking. Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway, which may worsen sleep apnea and snoring.
–Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This treatment utilizes a mask worn over the mouth and nose while you sleep. The mask is attached to a special machine that delivers air continuously into the nose. The constant air flow keeps the airway open so regular breathing can be maintained. Continuous positive airway pressure — also called CPAP — is a treatment in which a mask is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. The mask is hooked up to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into the nose. This air flow helps keep the airways open so that breathing is regular. CPAP is considered by many experts to be the most effective treatment for sleep apnea. Unfortunately many patients do not follow through with this treatment (about 1/4 to 1/2).
–Dental Appliance. Specially designed dental appliances can keep the airway open during sleep as well. An excellent example is the TAP appliance (Thornton Adjustable Positioner). The TAP holds the lower jaw in a forward position so that it does not fall open during the night and cause the airway to collapse. This appliance is able to maintain a clear airway to reduce snoring and improve breathing. The unique design gives the patient the ability to fine-tune his/her treatment at home and work with the dentist to achieve the best possible outcome. Patients are empowered to manage the degree of lower jaw protrusion over as many nights as it takes to achieve the optimal treatment position. The TAP is simple to use with a single point of central adjustment, which prevents uneven bilateral adjustment that can create an irregular bite and discomfort.
The TAP has shown to successful over 95% of the time. It is the key to a snore-free, restful night of sleep. This appliance gives the ability to treat sleep apnea without the need for surgery, a mask, or medication. The TAP is known as a leader in oral appliances for snoring and sleep apnea and is currently prescribed by thousands of dentists worldwide to treat snoring and sleep apnea. It is also the most researched oral appliances on the market with over 30 independent peer reviewed published studies. A simple dental examination is necessary to know if the patient will be able to use an oral appliance for sleep apnea treatment.
–Surgery for Sleep Apnea. For patients with a deviated nasal septum, enlarged tonsils, or a small lower jaw with an overbite causing the throat to be too narrow, surgery may be the right option to correct sleep apnea.
The most commonly performed types of surgery for sleep apnea include:
-Nasal surgery: Correction of nasal problems such as a deviated septum.
-Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This procedure removes soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, allowing for an increase in the width of the airway at the opening of the throat.
-Mandibular maxillar advancement surgery: Surgery to correct certain facial problems or throat obstructions that contribute to sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Conclusion
The important thing to note that diagnosis and treatment are the key here to overcome most of the issues associated with sleep apnea. Without treatment, the quality of life will quickly decrease. If you suspect you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, please consult your dentist or physician immediately before it is too late.