When you are chatting with patients, do you often come across ones who seem tired? Perhaps some of them are dealing with a rigorous schedule or heavy stressors. Others, though, might remark that they are always tired, and they use sleeping pills to help them rest. If that sounds like a red flag, you’re right — sleeping pills are not a solution to long-term sleep problems, including disorders like sleep apnea. Let’s talk about why that is the case and what you can do to help your patients get the high-quality shuteye they deserve.
How Sleeping Pills Affect Sleep Apnea
Most sleeping pills, including popular products like Tylenol PM, ZzzQuil, and a range of generic brands, work because they contain a specific type of antihistamine known as diphenhydramine. It is a compound that blocks certain receptors in the brain. Since those receptors play an important role in wakefulness, blocking them leads to a feeling of drowsiness.
At first, that might sound like it’s not a problem. However, diphenhydramine has side effects that can worsen sleep apnea. For example, it does more than make a person feel tired. It also causes muscles throughout the body to relax, including the ones in the throat that obstruct the airway in individuals with sleep apnea. As the muscles relax, they become more likely to interfere with breathing, leading to more severe apnea.
The bottom line on sleeping pills and sleep apnea is that although the pills can help individuals fall asleep quickly, they can have a big adverse effect on the quality of sleep they experience.
How You Can Help
Millions of adults suffer from sleep apnea, and many of them do not even realize that they have a disorder. They might resort to sleeping pills without being aware of how they are adding to the problem. Fortunately, you are in a position to help them.
By learning about sleep apnea and becoming qualified to offer treatment, you can assist patients address the root cause of their sleep problems. Even better, by offering oral appliance therapy, you provide patients with a non-pharmaceutical way to enjoy higher-quality rest. That means they will not have to worry about side-effects that are commonly brought on by sleep medications, such as dry mouth, headaches, and daytime fatigue.
You may also be able to offer other suggestions on how patients can improve the quality of their sleep without medication. For example, they might try breathing exercises or seek help for their mental health if anxiety is keeping them awake at night.
Sleeping pills might seem like a quick fix for nighttime restlessness, but they are not a real solution. You can help patients find true relief from sleep apnea by offering oral appliance therapy.
Meet Dr. Kent Smith
Dr. Kent Smith is the President of the American Sleep Breathing Academy and a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. He regularly hosts seminars and events to help his fellow dentists incorporate sleep apnea treatment into their practices. If you would like to take advantage of his vast knowledge, contact 21st Century Sleep Seminars at 817-318-6352 to learn more about the opportunities available to you.