Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep Apnea 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.

Measuring the severity

The apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) is used to reveal the overall severity of sleep disruptions and lower levels of oxygen getting to the blood. An AHI measuring 15 episodes per hour is indicative of the condition of sleep apnea; that equates to an episode of disrupted sleep every four minutes. In addition to AHI, there is also a respiratory disturbance index (RDI) meant to gauge respiratory events that also disrupt sleep.

Understanding the importance of sleep

A modern society is a busy one – able to burn the candle at both ends. With electricity providing lamplight to substitute for the sun, people can work around the clock and many have to in this economy. Add computers and television and it is clear that in the apparent vacuum of time called night, the expeditious have filled it up with waking activities. Despite the enterprise of modernity, human biological programming has remained the same. Where this impact is most significantly felt is in the way the sleep patterns have been disrupted.

Studies going back to the late 1950s were the first to describe the importance of the sleep stages. Suffice it to say, the human brain uses sleep to reboot itself, so to speak. Sleep has a progressive process of cycles that occur in sequence, each lasting an average from between 90 – 110 minutes, each one with a different physiological purpose. It is when the body is robbed of rejuvenating sleep that the damage occurs, insidiously and to our detriment.

Effects of sleep apnea

There is overwhelming evidence that sleep apnea contributes to a whole host of serious health conditions that are worsened as it goes untreated. Doctors warn that hypertension, or high blood pressure, can develop and be exacerbated the longer one goes without proper rest. In addition, this increases the risk of stroke, congestive heart failure, insomnia and mood disorders, such as depression and difficulty in controlling anger.

Further, daytime sleepiness has been identified as being a greater risk to driving and other activities requiring a keen attention span than being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are also links to diabetes, memory loss and the ability to concentrate.


Sleep apnea is one of the upper airway disorders that also include allergy, rhinitis, sinus congestion, nasal polyps, deviated septum and snoring. Washington Dental is currently using the protocols necessary to make the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea part of our practice. If you are concerned about snoring having a debilitating effect on your life, contact us today for a consultation.