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Sleep Apnea


When I first heard of sleep apnea, I was under the impression that this is more of a "larger" person disease. However, as despite me having sub-10% body fat, I still had it; it turns out sleep apnea can affect basically anyone.

One of the main criteria for sleep apnea diagnosis is the number of blood oxygen saturation drops per hour. However, there's two competing standards of how to define an oxygen saturation drop. One is 4%, another is 3%. Insurance uses 4% as their standard, as it helps them avoid paying for treatment. Doctors prefer to use 3%. The difference is dramatic. Under the 4% definition, I was "near normal," under the 3% definition, I was in the *most severe* category. Unfortunately, most at home sleep tests use the 4% definition and don't give you the raw data to re-run this by yourself. I had to go to a lab. You can try a very basic O2 saturation night meter , but itโ€™s not the most accurate.


Now, based on other symptoms, my sleep apnea was actually severe. I had bad insomnia, as my body didn't actually want to go to sleep. I didn't wake up refreshed. I ground my teeth at night. One of the key contributors to sleep apnea for me was an under-developed jaw. Causes of an under-developed jaw are many, but they include insufficient chewy foods in childhood, allergies, exposure to mold, various forms of tooth damage and bad orthodontics. One's jaw can either be too far back of too narrow, both were the case for me. Now, a few small at home things that *can* help this. Having a very thin pillow and not elevating one's head too much can help with sleep apnea. Occasionally, I just have a pillow under my neck and not my head. "Sleeping position" is another one of those surprisingly tough to make choices. Sleeping on one's back make sleep apnea worse, however sleeping on one's stomach makes shoulder tension worse.


I wanted more permanent solutions, so I decided to fix my jaw with medical help. For the jaw being too far back, one clean solution for me was Apnodent. It's a more sophisticated way to hold your lower jaw forward compared to older "mandibular adjustment devices." Those "MAD" devices came with some very frustrating side effects, such as TMJ pain, which made them tricky to use long term. For the jaw being too narrow, there are several quasi-surgical solutions, such as "Maxillary Skeletal Expander," which is currently in progress for me. You occasionally can get some small expansion through Invisalign, however you can only push teeth a very small amount if you are not changing jaw bones. There is a lot of complexity in each individual case, as sometimes you may want to align teeth before attempting surgeries, sometimes not. I spent a couple years with various devices and my sleep is way better now. Insomnia is gone and I wake up readily without wanting to snooze for a few hours.

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