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Treating Sleep Apnea with an Oral Appliance

A custom-fitted, adjustable oral appliance reduced snoring and sleep apnea, but volunteers still suffered from daytime sleepiness.

Sleep apnea and snoring are common problems, affecting nearly a fourth of middle-aged men and 9% of women.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea describes breathing that pauses frequently during sleep, from several seconds to a minute or longer. This can lead to daytime drowsiness or fatigue, impaired reaction time and judgment, and a range of other psychological and physiological problems. Irritability, mood swings, headaches and insomnia are common symptoms.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea may be due to chronic nasal congestion or collapsing airways. The usual recommended treatment is a device to provide continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. Although this often works well, many people find it too uncomfortable to use regularly.

Oral Appliance for Treating Sleep Apnea:

A Swedish study just tested an adjustable, custom-made oral appliance that moves the lower jaw forward slightly during sleep. The 96 participants were randomly assigned to the oral appliance or a placebo appliance for four months.

The device was able to reduce sleep apnea, snoring and restless leg symptoms significantly. Unfortunately, it did not reduce daytime sleepiness or improve quality of life.

JAMA Internal Medicine, Aug, 2015

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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