Articles - Your Health Magazine, November 2008
Sleep Apnea Management & Oral Systemic Balance
One effect of sleep apnea is reduction of restful sleep. In other words we are logging in the sleep time but not getting our beauty rest. What happens in sleep apnea? The muscles are relaxing and releasing the tension in them as our output of adrenaline type hormones that are responsible for maintaining muscle contraction to prevent obstructive apnea while we are awake, progressively decreases to allow us to go into deeper and deeper restful stages of sleep.
Because these hormones, as all hormones, circulate throughout the body they affect all muscles, including the tongue and those that prevent apnea while we are awake. Those of us with small or retruded jaws that position the back of the tongue closer to the back of the throat, or with mouths proportionally small for the size tongue forcing it backwards toward the back of the throat, or mouths too large for the tongue to provide adequate support to keep it from drooping back into the throat are the most susceptible to sleep apnea. We, consequently, suffer symptoms associated with the greater demands upon the body to prevent obstructive apnea during sleep and snorting and “forgetting to breath” (daytime apnea) while awake.
For that group of us, relaxation and sleeping poses a greater problem, for as adrenaline drops and our muscle tone decreases, our tongue droops back into the throat toward totally blocking it in what is described as choking or an obstructive apnea event.
During the process our throat gets progressively narrower. From altered air dynamics observers can often hear snoring leading to apnea or choking events that end with “snorts” as the adrenaline level jerks the tongue out of the throat enough to let in a momentary gasp of air. Throughout this period the body is attempting to maximize air intake by increasing the adrenaline hormone output in response to the collapsing of the tongue. The adrenaline wakes us to lighter, less restful sleep stages. Nudging a person while they are snoring will partially awaken them to temporary cessation of the snoring. Behind the scenes, the body is constantly lowering then instantaneously raising adrenaline type hormone output to prevent the tongue from falling completely back into the throat with the effect of choking and apnea.
Imagine the effect of this constant arousing of the body has on feeling rested during the day. Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure, cardiovascular incidents, even fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, mood swings, depression and numerous other chronic disorders.
Oral Appliance Therapy utilizes special mouthpieces during sleep to hold the tongue more forward and out of the throat and allow normal breathing. Because of greater comfort and convenience of use the majority of patients prefer this treatment approach.