What is Sleep Apnea?

If you snore loudly while sleeping or feel tired after a full night’s sleep, you could be suffering from sleep apnea. This sleeping disorder affects hundreds of thousands of individuals and occurs when a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition, but can be treated if diagnosed. Read on to learn more about this disorder.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type and is usually triggered by the collapse of soft tissue in the back of one’s throat. This causes a physical blockage in a person’s airway. Central sleep apnea is caused by  respiratory control instability and occurs when a person’s brain fails to tell their muscles to breathe. In both cases, individuals will struggle to breathe while sleeping and will therefore not receive the right amount of oxygen they need.

Causes

Sleep apnea can affect individuals of all ages. Risk factors include being overweight, being older than 40 years old, having a family history of the disorder, having a large neck, and having nasal obstruction. Men are more commonly diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Effects

Untreated sleep apnea can cause a variety of serious health issues. Health problems associated with sleep apnea include high blood pressure, headaches, diabetes, depression, and even stroke or heart failure. It can also adversely affect performance at school or work and can worsen ADHD.

Diagnosis

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you can have your doctor issue a polysomnogram. This sleep study records specific events while you sleep that are then analyzed by a sleep specialist. This study can be done at a sleep disorder center or at your home.

Treatment Options

Many treatment options are available for sleep apnea. Mild forms of this disorder can be treated by losing weight, quitting smoking, adjusting your sleeping position, or by avoiding sleeping pills or alcohol. If you have a more severe case of sleep apnea, you may need a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This oral appliance is worn over the mouth and nose and provides continuous air that will keep your airway open. If you prefer not to wear a CPAP, your dentist may be able to create another oral appliance that is similar to a mouthguard or retainer and keeps your airway clear by pulling your tongue and jaw forward. In other cases, surgery of the nose, throat or face may be required.  Schedule a consultation with one of our doctors at Better Dental to find out the best path forward.