Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Getting the Sleep I Needed Changed My Life

  January 02, 2018
Submitted by Todd Gray, DDS, D.ASBA, Koala Center for Sleep Disorders

Connie, a retired nurse, had struggled with daytime tiredness, morning headaches, irritability, and weight gain. “I had to push myself to do anything in the morning because I was always so tired,” she says.

Connie awoke one morning with chest discomfort. “My heart was racing, and I checked my pulse and it was 130!” she says. She immediately went to the emergency room. The cardiologist said Connie needed to start Warfarin a medication that prevents blood clots because she was experiencing atrial fibrillation. “The blood clots could have easily traveled to my brain and caused a stroke if I hadn’t received treatment then,” says Connie.

The cardiologist also suggested Connie have a sleep study to see if a sleeping disorder could be causing her atrial fibrillation. “I had wondered in the past if my fatigue and recent morning headaches could be from sleep apnea, but didn’t realize atrial fibrillation could also arise from sleep apnea,” she continues.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, when apneas occur the amount of oxygen in the blood can drop to below 60 percent. At the same time blood pressure can soar as high as 240/130. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, normal blood pressure is below 120/80. The oxygen deprivation causes the heart to pump harder to support the extra effort of the lungs trying to overcome the obstruction of the airway.

This stress triggers your body to respond in ways that may promote high blood pressure, heart disease, and other cardiovascular complications. A study in the August 1 issue of the Journal Sleep confirms the urgency of treating sleep apnea. Results show that people with severe, untreated sleep apnea have five times the risk of dying from a heart problem. Untreated sleep apnea can also increase your risk for depression, diabetes, gastric reflux, morning headaches, weight gain, and stroke.

Connie’s sleep study revealed that she had sleep apnea. “Both of my parents had symptoms of sleep apnea,” she says, “and looking back I remember my dad snoring a lot.” I tried to encourage them to have sleep studies, but they never did. I lost my mother from atrial fibrillation that led to a stroke,” says Connie. “I realized how dangerous untreated sleep apnea can really be and knew I needed to be treated.”

The pulmonologist recommended I use the oral sleep appliance to treat my sleep apnea. “I had read about the oral appliance and heard stories about people who were non-compliant to CPAP, and decided to go with the oral appliance,” says Connie.

Oral Appliance Therapy has proven to be a very viable and scientifically based treatment option for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a statement in the 2006 journal SLEEP that Oral Appliance Therapy was approved as the first line of treatment for those suffering from mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea and is proving to be effective for severe cases as well. The purpose of the oral appliance is to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. Oral appliances are similar to athletic mouth guards, but less bulky and completely non-invasive. Most medical insurances and Medicare cover oral appliances.

“After wearing the oral appliance, I noticed an immediate difference in my energy levels, and it was also much easier for me to lose weight,” says Connie. “I’m not snoring and have a much better mood.” Connie can now travel without falling asleep the minute she gets into the car. She has been able to keep her atrial fibrillation under control and lowered her blood pressure.

“So often people live with tiredness, snoring, and weight gain and tolerate a lot of discomfort because they have no idea that treating their sleep apnea can change their life!”

For more information on Oral Appliance Therapy for Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and TMJ Disorder please contact Dr. Gray at the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders in Bloomington at 309-319-6568, or visit to schedule an appointment.

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January 02, 2018


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