What is Sleep Apnea? And do You Have It?
Tired of not sleeping well or keeping others awake with your snoring and tossing around? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases being undiagnosed.
Sleep apnea is common disorder that causes people to stop breathing during sleep. People who suffer from untreated sleep apnea experience a blockage of their airway that occurs when their throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep. This limits the amount of air that reaches their lungs, causing them to snore loudly or to make choking noises, like a loud gasp, as their body startles them awake to resume breathing. This may happen a few times at night or even hundreds of times, often for a minute or longer, depending upon the severity of their sleep apnea. In most cases, the person who suffers from sleep apnea is unaware of these interruptions, because they generally remain in a alight sleep. For this reason, most people, who suffer from sleep apnea, don’t even realize they have a problem and their disorder remains undiagnosed.
Besides snoring and repeated breathing stoppages during sleep, sleep apnea may include other symptoms, such as feeling sleepy during the day. While apnea may not cause the patient to completely wake up during the night, it will interrupt their deep sleep pattern, so that they wake up feeling tired even after a full night of sleep. Other common symptoms may include the following:
– Trouble Concentrating
– Difficulty with memory
– Dry Mouth
– Sore Throat
– Personality changes (feeling irritable or depressed)
Untreated Sleep Apnea May Cause Health Issues
Suffering from sleep apnea may do more harm than just interring with a good night’s sleep and with your day job. (Not to mention if your spouse or partner’s) It can also lead to having an increased risk for serious health issues.
– Heart Attack
– High Blood Pressure
Who Gets Sleep Apnea?
While Obstructive Sleep Apnea is more common in people who are overweight, it can affect anyone, including children with enlarged tonsil tissues in their throats. The risk does increase as people get older and there is also a greater risk if a person has a family history of sleep apnea.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Unfortunately, while sleep apnea is a common disorder, it still goes largely undiagnosed. In most cases, doctors can’t detect it during routine office visits and no blood test will help diagnose this condition either.
If you believe you have sleep apnea symptoms or your spouse or partner notices that you stop breathing throughout the night, discuss with your doctor the possibility of having an overnight sleep study, (or at home sleep apnea test) which can help to accurately diagnose sleep apnea, as many of its symptoms may overlap with other health conditions. These studies are the most accurate tests for diagnosing sleep apnea.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is disorder that requires long-term management. While the goal of treatment involves restoring regular breathing during sleep and relieving symptoms, such as loud snoring and daytime sleepiness, the treatment will depend on the severity level of the patient’s sleep apnea.
Here are several possible ways to treat sleep apnea:
Changing Your Lifestyle
Sometimes life style change may help relieve mild sleep apnea.
– Avoiding alcohol and other sedatives that make you sleepy.
– Changing sleep habits, like sleeping on the side instead of on your back.
– Losing weight if you are overweight.
– Stop smoking
A custom made mouthpiece, like a snore guards, may also help with cases of mild sleep apnea. Your dentist may also recommend one if you snore loudly but do not have sleep apnea.
Your dentist will make a custom-fit mouthpiece that fits comfortably in your mouth. This mouthpiece will adjust your lower jaw and your tongue to help keep your airways open while you sleep. Your dentist may suggest periodic visits to adjust the mouthpiece so that it fits better. Learn more about the mouthpieces we offer for sleep apnea.
Continuous positive airway pressure, referred to as CPAP, is the most common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea in adults. This treatment involves using a machine that gently blows air into your throat, which helps keep the airways open during sleep. This device uses a mask that fits over your mouth and nose, or just over your nose. There are many types of CPAP machines and masks.
Surgery and Breathing Devices
For more severe forms of sleep apnea, some people may benefit from surgery. Surgery is done to widen breathing passages and generally involves shrinking, stiffening or removing excess tissue in the mouth and throat, or resetting the lower jaw. How well this surgery works will depend on the cause of the sleep apnea.
If you think you might benefit from a sleep device for sleep apnea or snoring, or you would like to learn more about our sleep dentistry services, please call us at (205) 524-1000 to schedule an exam or reach out to us online.