“You’ll grow out of it” is a phrase you likely heard when you were a child, and you might have even used it yourself. While many, many things change over time, sleep apnea is not something that will just go away on its own. Why is this the case, and more importantly, what should someone with the condition do to get the help they need?
Why Sleep Apnea Sticks Around
The most common form of sleep apnea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA. While someone is sleeping, the tissues toward the back of the throat (including the tongue) relax and block the airway, causing someone to have to wake up repeatedly to start breathing again.
There are many reasons this can occur. Obesity is a leading contributor to OSA, as is having a larger than average tongue or neck. Some people also just have a naturally narrow or less stable airway that is easier to become cut off. What all of these factors have in common is that they won’t naturally go away over time, and the same can be said of the resulting sleep apnea.
How to Take Charge
So your sleep apnea isn’t going anywhere—what should you do? While losing weight, drinking less alcohol, avoiding smoking, and maintaining high-quality sleep hygiene are all steps in the right direction, seeking out professional treatment is one of the most important things a person can do.
An easy first step is to schedule an appointment with a sleep dentist, who is specially trained to screen for the condition. They can also offer a solution in the form of an oral appliance that is worn to bed. This will reposition the lower jaw slightly forward to prevent the airway from closing.
Known as oral appliance therapy, this allows a patient to start getting the sleep they require relatively quickly. This way, they can be fully rested and have the energy and motivation they need to make the lifestyle changes touched on above that can also help with sleep apnea.
With the right treatment and daily habits, many people are able to reduce their sleep apnea symptoms to the point that they aren’t affected by them anymore. While visiting a sleep dentist isn’t as simple as “growing out of it,” it’s the next best thing, plus it has one big advantage, which is that it consistently works!
About the Author
Dr. Mitch Conditt is a sleep dentist with over 35 years of experience. A member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine who has completed several residencies dedicated to sleep dentistry, he has used custom-made oral appliances to help countless patients overcome OSA and snoring. If you’re ready to take the first step toward making sleep apnea a non-factor in your life, request an appointment or call 817-527-8500.