Q. How do I know if my son or daughter has sleep apnea? How is it treated?
A. Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea are both breathing disorders that occur during sleep due to narrowing or total closure of the airway. Snoring is a noise created by the partial closure of the airway and may often be more problematic than the noise itself. However, consistent, loud, heavy snoring has been linked to medical disorders such as high blood pressure. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious condition where the airway totally closes many times during the night and can significantly reduce oxygen levels in the body and disrupt sleep. In varying degrees, this can result in excessive daytime sleepiness, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and occasionally heart attack and stroke.
Individuals who have Down syndrome have a number of risk factors that contribute to this challenge. Some of the anatomical structures of the face can be one contributing factor. Weight is another factor that can affect the flow of air through the airway and Thyroid disease is another component that can contribute to the level of risk. According to a Journal of Sleep Medicine article (August 2009), children who have Down syndrome have a 30-50% prevalence and adults have even more factors for sleep apnea.
How do you know if you have sleep apnea? A sleep physician needs to diagnose this, based on the results of an overnight sleep study (Polysomnogram).
How do I treat it? There are a few ways to improve your condition. A weight management program may be beneficial. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco is also helpful. Sleeping on your side can decrease the severity of the problem.
If it has been determined by a physician that a patient has sleep apnea, medical and dental treatments including Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), oral appliance therapy (OAT) and upper-airway surgery may be helpful. If you think you or someone you care about may have sleep apnea, talk with a physician and/or dentist.
Do not ignore it! Sleep is good; Proper sleep is great!
By Steve Green, DDS
Team Green Dentistry