Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing stops repeatedly during sleep, often for over a minute, due to obstructions at the back of the throat. The stop in airflow eventually wakens the person just enough so that they can take a gasp of air, and the cycle then continues. An official diagnosis of OSA is indicated by more than 30 apneas in seven hours, but some people may have up to 500 incidences per night, without even knowing it. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons like Dr. Wasson are experts in the structures of the mouth and head, and therefore have extensive training to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

It is estimated by the National Sleep Foundation that 5-20% of adults have obstructive sleep apnea, and it is also found in significant numbers in children. Sleep apnea is a very serious condition, and can even be dangerous. Untreated, the risks include stroke and problems with the heart such as irregular heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, and heart attack. The lack of sleep associated with it can also have unwanted mental and emotional effects on a person, including depression, relationship stress, increased risk of accidents and lost productivity at work.

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

Most people can’t tell on their own that they have sleep apnea, as they sleep through most of the symptoms. The most telling symptoms are ones that a sleeping partner witnesses.

Ask your partner how often you:

  • Snore loudly
  • Stop breathing
  • Awaken abruptly with shortness of breath

Symptoms You Can Recognize On Your Own:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth or sore throat
  • Insomnia
  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability and attention problems

Sleep Apnea Treatments

There are a variety of options available to us when treating sleep apnea, depending on the severity of your case.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)

Treatment often starts with the use of a CPAP device, which uses very mild air pressure to keep the airways open. While CPAP machines can seem uncomfortable at first, within a short period of time, most people are able to sleep comfortably. Sometimes, we have to try several models to get the right fit.

At Home

  • Sleep on your side.
  • Avoid alcohol and sedative medications.
  • Exercise (just 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days can relieve some symptoms of sleep apnea).
  • Lose weight if you are overweight (fat deposits around the upper airway may obstruct breathing).
  • Stop smoking (smoking increases inflammation in the upper airway).

Oral Appliances

Oral appliances help to keep the throat open, relieving snoring and mild sleep apnea.

Surgery for Sleep Apnea

Surgery is typically seen as a more serious treatment option for those with unresolved sleep apnea after trying the above remedies. Surgery is designed to enlarge the airway. We have several options, depending on your anatomy and level of distress.

Surgical Options Include:

  • Tissue Removal (Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)): The soft palate is shortened and stiffened by removing part of the uvula and soft palate edge.
  • Securing of the “Adam’s Apple” (Hyoid Suspension): The hyoid bone is secured to cartilage for stabilization.
  • Tightening of the Front Tongue Tendon (Genioglossus Advancement (GGA)): This keeps the tongue from obstructing the airway.
  • Jaw Surgery (Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA)): The upper and lower jaws and soft tissues are moved forward to open the airways.

If you think you may have a sleep apnea, please, give us a call at Seattle Office Phone Number 206-632-0220. Don’t let this unsafe condition interfere with your life.