Are you tired all day long? Do you find yourself constantly needing some type of caffeine or pick me up to keep your eyes open? Do you have broken or cracked teeth not due to decay?Has your dentist or hygienist ever asked if you grind your teeth? A sleep study can tell you a lot about what you are doing while you are sleeping and how that is impacting your daily life.
I grind my teeth…like I break night guards, that’s how hard I grind. It’s not a secret…. Heck I couldn’t even hide if I wanted to due to the amount of noise my jaw makes when I chew. When you think of sleep apnea you probably think of someone who is overweight, male or short neck. Truthfully while those can be indicators for sleep apnea there are other forms of airway obstruction that can have the same results. Upper airway Resistance Syndrome, UARS for short is the blockage of air in the nasal passages during sleep which can lead to fatigue during the day and actually effects more petite frame females. As with other sleep related disorders this can have harmful side effects on your bodies metabolic and cardiovascular health.
I recommend sleep studies to my patients everyday, yet I had never had one myself. My dentist (my boss) recommended I go and get one done to not only figure out my own grinding/sleep issues but to be able to tell patients about the process. I have never been more glad I did, because I can give first hand experience and recommendation that may help you decide what’s best for you.
So let me paint a picture for you of my nightly sleep routine, my house is set at 70 degrees, I love it cold…I simply cannot sleep in hot settings. My bed has a huge fluffy pillow top I sleep on and an oversized super fluffy down comforter to burrow under. My husband runs his fingers through my hair every night until I drift off to sleep…..and my 110 lb German shepherd curls up at the foot of the bed and keeps watch all night so I can feel secure in dream land. I am the definition of the princess and the pea. If any of these things are off I simply can’t sleep. When my husband has to travel for work or we go on vacation I never have the sleep like I do in my own bed. With that being said I would probably be a better candidate for a home study even though they are not considered to give as accurate of results.
Our office refers to Dr Phillips with REstore TMJ & Sleep Therapy in The Woodlands, Tx. I will start with my initial visit was via Zoom due to being shortly after the pandemic, which I am not very fond of as I feel I cannot connect with people over a zoom. I explained to her my symptoms I was having and went over all my medical history, medications I’m taking etc. She recommended not only an overnight sleep study but also an all day study following that one that would have you nap multiple times during the day to see how often you were likely to fall asleep. I agreed and set up my appt for the next week. I was not explained what to expect etc, I was only told where to go and what time to be there. I was told I could bring my own pillow and also a small cooler with food or have door dash drop off food for the next day study since I would not only be there over night but through 5 PM the next day.
The night of my study I headed to the Woodlands and turned into a dark parking lot which had a lot of office buildings which all looked to be closed. I was confused and double checked the address to make sure I was at the correct place. I left my things in the car but went up to the door and sure enough it was unlocked. The waiting area was dark, but I could see a light on in the back of the office. To say I felt very uneasy is an understatement. I got my things from the car and headed to the back of the office where I could hear a voice talking. There was no one around to check me in, no one to even acknowledge my existence and quite frankly felt very odd. I heard a man talking to what sounded like another person doing a sleep study so I just waited until he was done. The man came out of the room, I told him I was checking in and he got me set up in my room for the night and went over what was going to be happening, what I should expect and what was expected of me. I will say even though he was extremely professional the fact that he was the only person there, was an extremely poor decision on this practices part. As a female there was no way I was going to be able to sleep, let alone have a good nights sleep to give any sort of accurate results in these conditions. I should have rescheduled but due to limited days off of work and already being there I decided to just go through with it.
He connected all the electrodes to my head and then said because I was also doing a test for UARS I had to have a nasal airway tube placed down my nose that would monitor oxygen in my throat. ARE THEY KIDDING!!!! After he placed it I just felt like I was constantly gagging, feeling like something was stuck in the back of my throat. How in the heck did they think one would get a good night rest with this in place? Next he had me lay on my back in bed and connected all my wires to a box on the nightstand. I am a stomach sleeper. The bed reminded me of the pullout couch at my grandmothers house where you could feel the springs through the bottom. They also have a thin sheet in which you can use as your “covers”. At this point the situation seemed laughable, he did offer me a sleeping pill to help me sleep but as I stated previously I was already skeptical due to the lack of personnel the last thing I was going to do was take a sleeping pill to effect my cognitive ability.
The room was 74 degrees, the bed was uncomfortable and I didn’t even have blankets. For me this was so far from ideal sleeping conditions that I knew this was going to be a waste of time. I basically counted sheep and time until it was morning. He came in a few times throughout the night to check the leads and asked why I couldn’t sleep. I did eventually drift off a few times through out the night only for a few minutes I think my brain stayed in fight or flight mode. I also pulled out the nasal tube a few hours in because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I was choking.
In the morning personnel changed out and a woman was the my daytime study monitor. Even though I was exhausted and they had removed a lot of the cables for the day time test, the bed was still horribly uncomfortable ….and at this point I was counting down the seconds until 5PM. I finished the day time test which was a 30 min nap every few hours, which I never fell asleep during. A few weeks later I met with Dr Phillips via Zoom again to discuss my results which not shockingly were inconclusive she did see some periods where I had fallen asleep where my O2 had dropped. She said I could try a CPAP machine to see if it helped but I declined as I would like to get more definitive results. If you are anything like me I think maybe a home study would be better, they have a lot less cables and you are in your own space. My husband did a home study and it consists of a chest band around his torso, a nasal cannula over his nose, and a pulse ox on his finger. He had a much more conclusive testing for his results. I may try that again in the future, right now I just consistently wear my night guard every night.
Sleep studies can be very beneficial in the right setting,. I highly recommend looking into all of that before you schedule yours. I have had many patients who after getting a sleep study have life changing results. Once they got a a CPAP machine not only were they sleeping deeper and felt more rested, some were even able to get off multiple medications due to better health, weight loss and more energy from being well rested. Talk with your dental provider about what a sleep study can do for you.