We know the common image of people who snore: older men, usually overweight. And it’s true that this is the demographic that’s at the highest risk for snoring and sleep apnea.

But that’s not the whole story. There is a form of sleep-disordered breathing that tends to affect a different demographic entirely. It’s sometimes called upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), and it’s been described flippantly as “the young, thin, beautiful woman’s sleep disorder.” However, you should take UARS seriously, as it can result in serious health problems. The Omaha sleep dentists at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center can help you determine if you have UARS. If you do, they can also help you find an appropriate treatment that you will actually use.

What Is UARS?

young woman sleeping peacefully in bed

UARS is a form of sleep-disordered breathing where a restricted airway lets in air, but not enough to meet the body’s needs during sleeping. The resulting oxygen shortage can lead the body to awaken enough to increase airflow. People with UARS might experience snoring because of turbulence in the airway, but not all do.

The typical causes for UARS are a narrow airway or sagging soft tissues during sleep that cause the airway to narrow. This means that the condition can affect small, slender people who are fit and those who are overweight.

So far, it’s very much like sleep apnea, which is why many argue that UARS is just a form of sleep apnea. But what makes it different is that the symptoms are often disproportionate to the degree of sleep disturbance. People with UARS may not show as much disturbance in a sleep test, but they definitely show symptoms comparable to people with sleep apnea who have a high apnea/hypopnea index (AHI).

This has led some people to propose that the problem isn’t so much the disruption of breathing as it is the brain’s response to the disruptions.

To diagnose UARS, your Omaha sleep dentist will recommend a home sleep test or polysomnography. A sleep physician will review the results of your sleep test and talk to you about your subjective symptoms. From the combination of objective results and subjective symptoms, your physician will build a diagnosis and recommendation for treatment.

Realizing Your Risk

UARS can be very hard to diagnose for many reasons. Partly, that’s because the demographic is so different than it is for other forms of sleep-disordered breathing. This makes it hard for people and their doctors in Omaha to identify the cause of their symptoms. Often, women consider essentially any other condition before they imagine it’s a sleep-breathing problem.

Common symptoms related to UARS are similar to those for sleep apnea and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up unrested
  • Morning headaches
  • Mood swings or psychological difficulties
  • Insomnia

The symptoms may be less pronounced than for sleep apnea, but they can also be very disruptive.

Women who have UARS may receive a misdiagnosis of chronic fatigue, pain disorders, or psychological disorders such as depression.

UARS may initially appear less serious, but you should not ignore it. If left untreated, UARS can become more severe, eventually leading to sleep apnea, which we know causes numerous serious health risks.

Treating UARS in Omaha

Fortunately, like other forms of sleep-disordered breathing, the Omaha sleep dentists at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center can help you find an effective treatment for UARS. The same treatments are used for UARS as for sleep apnea or snoring. Commonly, people are prescribed CPAP, but this can be hard to adapt to (it’s not uncommon to take two or three months to adapt). Some people never adapt to CPAP. To some, CPAP can seem as disruptive as the condition itself, especially if your UARS symptoms are less severe. However, oral appliances can work very effectively to widen the airway and allow more air into the body. This can effectively treat your UARS, and it’s more comfortable and convenient, making it an easier treatment to keep up with.

Since UARS often affects people who are relatively young and at a healthy weight, it’s unclear how effective lifestyle modifications like exercise and weight loss might be. However, positional therapy (learning to sleep on your side) can be effective, as can cutting out alcohol and sleep medications.

UARS symptoms may seem out of proportion with the level of sleep-disordered breathing. If that is the case for you, you might benefit from focusing on sleep hygiene and other approaches that can help you get better quality sleep.

If you would like to learn which is the best treatment for your UARS in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.