A large majority of adults and children in every region of the country now wear masks at school, in stores, during business hours, and even on the home front. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 85 percent of adults in the United States say they have worn their mask all or most of the time over the past few months of the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Wearing a mask does take its toll, especially for those who wear them all day. For those who use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, the thought of wearing another mask all night is something many might want to avoid. However, as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious medical condition, not wearing that CPAP mask can be a dangerous decision.
But at Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders, we pose the question: If you are wearing a mask all day, have you considered an alternative to wearing a mask all night?
Although everyone’s experience with sleep apnea is different, Gail, a Koala patient, shares her own struggles as a way to help others.
“Looking back, I could see where my health was declining and my relationships were becoming strained, and I didn’t know why,” she says.
Gail was at a loss; her mood swings at both home and work were puzzling and she’d lost joy in the things she loved to do. Life itself felt overwhelming and the thought of dealing with holiday festivities brought feelings of anxiety instead of the joy to which she was accustomed. It was only after all these issues she discovered she was sleep-deprived and suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
Gail’s experience is not unique. For many people, the upcoming holidays are a time of increased stress and depression. According to an article from Psychology Today, “holiday blues are a real phenomenon.” Stressors range from end-of-year work deadlines to family gatherings to financial concerns. When these stressors combine with sleep deprivation caused by a sleep disorder, a time of year that should be filled with joy, family, and friendship can easily feel like an accident waiting to happen.
Sleep deprivation from sleep apnea can lead to a variety of problems, ranging from hormone imbalances to impaired cognitive skills and from heart issues to drowsy driving. Yet, surprisingly, our society does not always place a priority on sleep, states Dr. Rod Willey, founder of Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders. He notes, “Of the three pillars of health and wellness—nutrition, exercise, and sleep—society tends to see sleep as negotiable. However, it is an extremely vital pillar that should not be overlooked.”
Gail learned the effects of sleep deprivation are far-reaching—impacting our professions, family lives, and our health. Visiting Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders, Gail—like many others—learned about the chronic condition of sleep apnea. OSA results when the tongue, jaw, and soft tissues relax and collapse into the airway during sleep, leading to oxygen deprivation, interrupted sleep, and stress on the heart. A typical sequence of OSA occurs during sleep when a person stops breathing for a period that can last a few seconds to over a minute. The brain may cause the body to jerk in an attempt to wake the sleeper so breathing will resume. Once back to sleep, this cycle can occur hundreds of times per night. Some of the signs and symptoms of OSA include waking multiple times, daytime sleepiness, snoring, mood swings, high blood pressure, decreased cognitive skills, depression, and anxiety. When left untreated, it may lead to heart attack, stroke, and death.
Fortunately for Gail, and others like her, she discovered the Koala® custom dental sleep appliance is an easy-to-wear, comfortable treatment for OSA. Gail tells us, “Since being fitted with the dental sleep appliance, I’m enjoying family, friends, and festivities again. I’m so grateful to the Koala staff for helping me get the sleep I need. I’m living the dream with a good night’s sleep.”
Meet Dr. Willey
Dr. Willey is the founder and CEO of the Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders franchise and KoalaKIDZzz®. He champions headache-free living and sleep health at each of the Koala locations.
After completing his doctorate in dentistry at Loma Linda University, Dr. Willey continued his training through the Las Vegas Institute, mastering neuromuscular occlusion (NMO), temporomandibular disorders (TMD), and developmental diagnosis. He further completed a five-year course in functional orthodontics and guided growth development through the United States Dental Institute. Energetic and empathetic for patients of every age and walk of life, Dr. Willey believes everyone deserves the opportunity to live pain-free days and enjoy deep, restful sleep-filled nights.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy (OAT) has come to the forefront as a very viable, scientifically based treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Willey explains what oral appliance therapy entails: “Dental sleep appliances are similar in feel to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. They are worn during sleep to prevent the obstruction that occurs during sleep apnea. They were approved by the FDA in 2006 to treat mild and moderate sleep apnea and are an effective option for CPAP intolerance.” The oral appliance works by holding the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. Although similar to an athletic mouth guard, dental sleep appliances are less bulky and completely non-invasive.
In the 2006 Journal SLEEP, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine declared OAT is an excellent treatment option for those suffering from mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea and is proving to be effective for severe cases as well.
Although a simple oral appliance may sound like an obvious replacement for CPAP users, the CPAP continues to be the “gold standard” of treatment for severe OSA, says Dr. Willey. “If a patient is using CPAP and doing well, I want them to stay on it,” he advises. “Unfortunately, many patients simply cannot get used to the masks, or suffer from claustrophobia that causes them to discontinue wearing the mask. If a patient cannot wear the CPAP, other treatment options include lifestyle changes, surgery, and oral appliance therapy.”
As obstructive sleep apnea is recognized as a serious medical condition, most insurances do cover its treatment. “Our team of insurance professionals provide billing services for most major medical insurance, Medicare, and Tricare for oral appliance therapy,” the doctor adds.
Sleep is a Medicine Everyone Needs
With the winter holidays usually comes a variety of illness and many families fill up their medicine cabinets in preparation. This year, more than any in recent history, those health concerns are even more validated. Dr. Willey and all those at the Koala® Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders understand these concerns firsthand.
“Along with my fellow Peorians, my family and I understand the difficulties of living through the current pandemic we all share,” Dr. Willey says. “We too have lost family members and have cancelled gatherings that we hold very dear. With the upcoming holiday seasons, I encourage you to be sure to make every minute with family and friends count. Sleep is a powerful medicine, and more valuable than most realize. Don’t miss it! Get your sleep and relief from headaches and be prepared to make this year’s holidays the most joyous and memorable.”
Dr. Rod Willey works closely with area physicians to provide comprehensive care for OSA. Koala Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders® dental sleep appliance is considered medical treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea and CPAP Intolerance. Covered by most health insurance, Medicare, TRICARE and VA Benefits. Koala Center For Sleep & TMJ Disorders® offers options you can live with.
Call us today for a consultation at (309) 243-8980 or visit our website at KoalaSleepCenters.com.