Friday, July 17, 2009

Sleep Apnea and TMJ

I have known for years that I have sleep apnea and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), but until I visited Reno's TMJ Sleep Center the other day, I didn't have a clue what it was doing to me. I've used a CPAP machine (which always gets intense scrutiny at airport security) and a mouth night guard to try to deal with it.

The purpose of a CPAP machine is to force air into my throat so I don't stop breathing while I sleep, which is essentially what sleep apnea is. It can be harmful or fatal if left untreated.

Even with the CPAP, however, I've often felt groggy, tired, and unrefreshed upon awakening. Some of that was because I rarely got enough sleep, especially in my last couple jobs where I had to start very early (5 or 6 AM). But ever since moving to Nevada, I felt even less refreshed, and I've had nearly constant headaches and neck pain. I chalked a lot of that up to my working overnights.

It turns out I'll probably have to start from square one with my treatment. For starters, the air pressure used from my CPAP is really only applicable at sea level, as was the case with my last sleep study in Maryland. But the air is considerably thinner here in Sparks at an altitude of almost 5,000 feet, so the sea-level setting doesn't go as far.

After checking me out, the folks at the TMJ Sleep Center discovered my jawbone lays almost right against my ear, especially at night. No wonder I have constant headaches in my temples! They also found as a result, my airway is roughly the size of a straw at night. No wonder I don't feel refreshed; I could have the air generated by the takeoff of a 737 going into me and it wouldn't make any difference! Finally, my night guard may be hurting me more than helping me.

Fortunately, it looks like the treatment involved won't require surgery, just a properly-adjusted CPAP and the use of special alplainces to get/keep my law in the proper position. I'm hoping other things start falling into place once that gets taken care of; the center tells me sleep apnea plays with my hormones, making me feel like I want to eat when I don't have to. I definitely want to be more active, but it's difficult when all I want to do is sleep. Just search on "I'm so tired" here in this blog.

I'll keep you posted on what happens. Meanwhile, I'm off to take a nap.


Karen Binney said...


Thanks for the information!

I had no idea that sleep apnea plays with the hormones, making one feel like eating when it really isn't necessary. I also want to be more active, but have no energy to do it. This helps explain that.

I have returned to my CPAP in Feb. but have not been faithfully using it.

Dymphna said...

I use my CPAP all the time. I'll have to remember the sea level thing. So far, I'm still where I was when I got my sleep study done. I also grind my teeth and have a night guard. I didn't know they were related.