Sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea) is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Similarly, each abnormally low breathing event is called a hypopnea. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram, or "sleep study."
There are three forms of sleep apnea: central (CSA), obstructive (OSA), and complex or mixed sleep apnea constituting 0.4 percent, 84 percent and 15 percent of cases respectively. In CSA, breathing is interrupted by a lack of respiratory effort; in OSA, breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort, and snoring is common. OSA is linked to such health risks as high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disorder, diabetes and depression.
Regardless of type, an individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body. Symptoms may be present for years (or decades) without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance.
To combat OSA, we recommend products such as the TAP® (Thornton Adjustable Positioner) devices and the EMA® (Elastic Mandibular Advancement) oral appliance. Both the TAP and TAP 3 TL hold the lower jaw in a forward position, maintaining a clear airway to improve breathing. The EMA is also a removable appliance that is designed to both advance the mandible and open the bite to allow for less restricted airflow during sleep.
The Silent Nite® sl is also prescribed for sleep apnea. Silent Nite sl positions the lower jaw forward using special S-shaped connectors that are attached to upper and lower splints. The new, improved connectors are stronger than those found on the original Silent Nite and are easily interchangeable by the patient.
TAP is a registered trademark of Airway Management Inc. EMA is a registered trademark of Frantz Design Inc.