Snoring, long considered to be no more than a social nuisance, is now seen by the medical community as a possible sign of more serious health conditions. In order, however, to determine whether a patient’s snoring indicates a more serious disorder, like obstructive sleep apnea, overnight sleep studies are critical to obtain. The problem of course is that many patients are resistant to spending the night at a Sleep Clinic, and after hearing nightmare stories from friends and family that have spent restless nights lying awake in a sleep lab, refuse to schedule an appointment.
It is not uncommon therefore to be confronted by this familiar story. The patient, a man in his mid-thirties or forties, married, with children has a history of snoring. With some gain of weight his nightly snoring has become so disruptive that his wife routinely leaves the bedroom halfway through the night. On vacations, it’s necessary to reserve two rooms instead of one just because of the snoring. Basically, dad disturbs the sleep of the entire family.
Upset and exhausted, the wife finally convinces her husband to see his physician, which he does, though reluctantly. The physician then suggests a Sleep Study, which involves a night away from home at a Sleep Center. This is where the problems really start as men often refuse to spend the night away from home, particularly since they don’t even think they have a problem and deny that they snore in the first place. So, the snoring goes on, the family suffers and more importantly the snorer may be at risk for health consequences down the road.
But, there is good news for snorers and their families. In the past 10 years advances in technology have brought sleep testing equipment to the bedroom. At-home Sleep Study equipment has been proven to provide reliable data and is currently a service that has been embraced by medical insurance carriers. In fact home studies are often being required prior to the more formal and traditional study done in a sleep lab. Although physicians have traditionally been thought of as the primary health care provider to advise patients with snoring and more serious airway problems (like apnea), dentists have begun to play a critical role in terms of assessment, and more importantly in motivating patients to pursue comprehensive evaluations inclusive of overnight sleep testing.
What then would indicate that a home study is needed?
In order for your doctor to ascertain if you are a candidate for a Sleep Study, he or she will ask you questions about your health, and how you routinely feel during the day and on arising in the morning. Pen and pencil questionnaires may also be given to you which ask questions about:
- Daytime sleepiness
- General fatigue levels
- Frequency of sleep arousal
- Morning headaches
- Irritability in the morning or daytime moodiness
- Problems concentrating during the day
If your answers indicate that a Sleep Study is recommended, your doctor will set in motion a process to pre-certify the home study through your insurance company.
The testing equipment will either be obtained at a local sleep center or it will be shipped directly to your home. The equipment is easy to use and very self -explanatory. You will need to use it for only one night, then return it so that the data can be read and interpreted by a board-certified sleep physician. A report is then sent to your doctor who will then be able to make a recommendation based upon the findings.
In my practice, depending on what the Sleep Study indicates, recommendations for additional consultation or treatment will follow. Snoring that does not carry with it other health concerns can be treated with an oral appliance. Apnea if present can be treated in a number of ways depending on the severity identified on the overnight study. Oral appliances certainly are one option that can be explored.
The goal: Healthy airways and maybe save a few marriages along the way!
To learn more about Oral Appliances for Sleep Apena Treatment, consider reading some of my other recent blogs:
- Oral Appliance Saves Marriage
- What is CPAP?
- Mouthguards & Nightguards – How Long Do They Need To Be Worn?
Dr. Donald Tanenbaum is a specialist with offices in New York City and Long Island, NY. He is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat facial pain associated with snoring, sleep apnea, jaw problems, TMJ, and migraines. Find out more at www.tanenbaumtmj.com.