Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Apnea & Snore Guards
How often have you been nudged awake for sounding like a congested walrus or a sleeping pig? Have you ever been told that you sound like a foghorn while snoring?
The problem might not be snoring at all — the real culprit might be sleep apnea.
But don’t panic just yet!
An effective solution to nighttime nuisances is the snore guard — a friendly neighbor telling a noisy party to quiet down.
Discover how snore guards could be the key to silent, restful nights!
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated breathing stops and starts during sleep. It can occur hundreds of times a night. The brain wakes you once your breathing stops to restart it, disrupting your sleep and leaving you tired and exhausted the following day. Some pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 times or more per hour.
What are the 2 Types of Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax during sleep. Your airway narrows or closes as you breathe, preventing you from inhaling enough air. This process is usually so brief that you barely remember it. Your brain senses that you can’t breathe and rouses you from sleep to reopen your airway.
Central Sleep Apnea
In central sleep apnea (CSA), your brain fails to properly signal to the muscles that control your breathing. No physical obstruction occurs — your brain simply forgets to tell your body to breathe.
What are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?
There are several causes of obstructive sleep apnea, including:
- Excess weight: Fat buildup around the upper airway can prevent you from breathing properly.
- Neck circumference: Narrower airways in people with thicker necks may cause OSA.
- Age: Older adults are significantly more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
- Gender: Sleep apnea is more common among men.
- Family history: Instances of OSA in your family history may increase your predisposition to this condition.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers: These substances relax your throat muscles.
- Smoking: Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in smokers than non-smokers.
- Nasal congestion: Obstructive sleep apnea is more likely to develop if you have difficulty breathing through your nose due to anatomical issues or allergies.
For central sleep apnea, the causes may include:
- Heart disorders: You are more likely to develop congestive heart failure if you have had it before.
- Opioid use: People with central sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing the disorder if they take morphine, codeine, or oxycodone.
- Stroke: You are more likely to develop treatment-emergent central sleep apnea if you’ve experienced a stroke.
What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
- Loud snoring: In most cases, another person who witnesses the patient sleeping will recognize this first sign of sleep apnea.
- Episodes of stopped breathing: They occur when you’re sleeping and are often reported by others who watch your sleep.
- Gasping for air during sleep: You suddenly wake up gasping or choking.
- Waking up with a dry mouth: Breathing through the mouth causes chronic dry mouth and throat.
- Morning headache: Due to frequent awakenings and disrupted sleep, sleep apnea leads to headaches.
- Insomnia: Sleep apnea disrupts sleep patterns.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia): Insomnia and daytime fatigue result from frequent sleep disruptions.
- Difficulty concentrating: During the day, sleep deprivation can make it difficult to focus.
- Irritability: Mood changes (for example, irritability and depression) are caused by poor sleep.
- Decreased libido: Sexual desire or activity may decrease in patients with sleep apnea.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Sleep Apnea?
- Poor cardiovascular health: Besides putting a strain on the cardiovascular system, sleep apnea increases heart disease risk.
- Hypertension: Your hormone systems go into overdrive every time you wake up at night, resulting in higher blood pressure levels and hypertension.
- Type 2 diabetes: ISleep apnea increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
- Stroke: A stroke is more likely in patients with untreated sleep apnea.
- Asthma: Research suggests a possible link between sleep apnea and worsening asthma symptoms.
- Acid reflux or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease): Many patients report an improvement in their acid reflux symptoms after sleep apnea treatment.
- Cognitive and mental health issues: Memory loss, mood swings, concentration problems, and depression are all consequences of sleep apnea.
- Liver problems: Sleep apnea increases the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, characterized by fat accumulation in the liver.
Is Sleep Apnea Life-Threatening?
Leaving sleep apnea untreated can be life-threatening.
Sleep apnea may cause serious health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, due to its strain on your cardiovascular system. In severe cases, these conditions may threaten your life and significantly impact your quality of life.
A person with sleep apnea will often be excessively sleepy during the day, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk of car accidents due to drowsy driving.
As a result of a lack of sleep, mood disorders like depression and anxiety may occur, as well as impaired cognitive function, memory, and concentration.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
You’ll be asked about your sleep habits and overall health first. Your healthcare provider will inquire about your family history of sleep apnea and any other diseases you may have, such as hypertension.
You may be referred to a sleep disorder center where a sleep specialist can conduct a more detailed evaluation, usually involving an overnight sleep study (polysomnogram).
As you sleep, you will be connected to equipment that monitors your heart, lungs, and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels. This data will determine the severity of your condition.
It may be possible to perform a home sleep test. These tests measure the rhythm of your breathing, heart rate, blood oxygen level, and airflow through your lungs.
A visit to an ENT specialist might be needed if the results are inconclusive.
Is Sleep Apnea a Common Disorder?
Millions worldwide suffer from sleep apnea, although many may not even know it.
A study by the National Sleep Foundation estimates that between 2% and 9% of adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a common problem, but the actual number could be much higher. The main symptoms occur while sleeping, so many people may not realize they have a problem.
Can Sleep Apnea Affect My Pregnancy?
Pregnancy can be affected by sleep apnea.
Pregnant women are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea due to fluctuating hormone levels and physical changes. 26% of pregnant women suffer from sleep apnea, especially in their third trimester.
Sleep apnea during pregnancy is not only a concern for the mother but for the baby as well.
In the case of a mother suffering from sleep apnea, pregnancy complications include:
- Gestational diabetes
- Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy, causing liver and kidney damage)
- Eclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure that can cause life-threatening seizures)
For the baby, maternal sleep apnea increases the risk of:
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight
- Intrauterine growth restriction (insufficient baby growth in the mother’s womb)
- The need for neonatal intensive care
Are Sleep Apnea and Tongue Biting Connected?
There is a connection between sleep apnea and tongue biting.
As a result of muscle relaxation during sleep apnea episodes, the tongue can fall backward, blocking the airway temporarily. If your tongue stands between your teeth during a struggle for breath, you may inadvertently bite it.
Does Sleep Apnea Lead to Jaw Pain?
Yes, sleep apnea may cause jaw pain.
There is a connection between sleep apnea and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). The temporomandibular joint is a hinge between your jaw and your temporal bones. It allows you to talk, chew, and yawn while moving your jaw up and down and side to side.
The risk factors and symptoms of sleep apnea and TMJ disorders are similar, and one can exacerbate the other. As you struggle to unblock your airway, you might clench your jaw and grind your teeth (bruxism) during episodes of obstructive sleep apnea. In addition to headaches and difficulty chewing, repeated clenching and grinding strain the temporomandibular joint, causing pain and discomfort.
Conversely, TMJ disorders can contribute to sleep apnea. A patient with a TMJ disorder might have misaligned jaw bones or issues with the muscles and tendons around the jaw. These problems can restrict the airway, making episodes of obstructive sleep apnea more likely.
What is a Snore Guard?
Snore guards are oral appliances designed to prevent snoring and alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. They keep your jaw forward, maintaining an open airway and reducing snoring and sleep apnea.
Are Snore Guards Safe?
Snore guards are safe when used correctly.
Common side effects of snore guard usage include discomfort, excessive salivation, and dry mouth. You may also experience temporary changes to your bite while getting used to the device.
Maintaining good oral hygiene when using a snore guard is essential because failing to properly clean the device may result in tooth decay or gum disease.
How Do Snore Guards and Night Guards Differ?
Snore and night guards are designed for different purposes and conditions.
Snore guards address breathing issues (such as snoring and sleep apnea), while night guards correct teeth and jaw issues (such as bruxism).
Can I Swallow My Snore Guard During Sleep?
The chances of swallowing a snore guard at night are very low.
Snore guards cover a significant portion of your upper or lower teeth. Furthermore, they are large enough to prevent any swallowing accidents.
Sleep also reduces your swallowing reflex, so you’re less likely to unintentionally swallow something that size.
Can I Drink With a Night Guard In?
Drinking while wearing a night guard may trap liquid between your teeth and the guard. Most night guards are not meant to be worn during drinking.
In addition to being uncomfortable, drinking with a night guard on can also cause potential problems. For example, sugary or acidic liquids cause tooth decay since they stay in contact with your teeth for a prolonged period.
It’s safer and more hygienic to remove your night guard during the night, take a sip of water, and then replace it.
How Long Will My Snore Guard Last?
Your snore guard’s longevity depends on several factors, including:
- The device’s quality
- Care and maintenance
- The amount of time you spend grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw
Generally, if you take good care of your snore guard, it will last anywhere from 6 months to a few years. But, if you grind or clench heavily, you may find that your snore guard wears out faster.
How Can I Keep My Snore Guard Clean?
Following these steps will help you keep your snore guard effective and fresh for as long as possible:
- Rinse it after each use: Always rinse your snore guard thoroughly under cold water as soon as you take it out of your mouth in the morning. This will remove any saliva, plaque, or food particles.
- Use a toothbrush: Clean your snore guard gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush (without toothpaste).
- Soak it: For stains and bacteria removal, soak your snore guard in a denture-cleaning solution once a week.
- Let it dry: To prevent bacterial growth, make sure you completely dry your snore guard before storing it.
- Regular check-ups: Your orthodontist will inspect the snore guard to ensure it fits properly.
How Much Does a Snore Guard Cost?
Various factors determine the cost of a snore guard.
If you choose an over-the-counter product (for example, a “boil-and-bite” device), you could spend as little as $20 to $100.
You can, however, expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $2000 for a custom-made snore guard from your orthodontist. Even though these custom devices seem expensive, they are more comfortable, durable, and effective.
Additionally, if your snore guard is medically necessary, your health insurance might cover some of its costs.