What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that many individuals suffer from without even knowing it. It is a sleep disorder in which individuals stop breathing while they sleep. These intervals vary from individual to individual and can be 10 to 30 seconds. The intervals happen numerous times during the night and can even occur over 400 times in a night, disrupting the individual’s sleep pattern.
The Cause of Sleep Apnea
There are two main classifications of sleep apnea, obstructive and central. Both caused by different factors.
- Obstructive: The majority of individuals with sleep apnea experience obstructive sleep apnea. This is caused by a blockage of the path of air into the lungs. The blockage prevents the body from inhaling enough air and is usually blocked by the tongue, tonsils, or the fatty tissues in the throat.
- Central: While not as common, central sleep apnea is caused when the central nervous system is not functioning as it should as you sleep. The muscles used for breathing don’t get signals from the brain to breathe. This can either be caused by the signal being interrupted or the brain not sending it at all.
The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
It is difficult for individuals to determine whether they have sleep apnea because, well, they are unconscious and asleep. However, a partner can help identify sleep apnea which has the following symptoms:
- Feeling of fatigue and sleepy during the day, easily irritable
- Frequently waking up at night and restlessness
- Experiencing dry mouth when you wake up
- Choking or gasping for air as you sleep
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Often waking up to use the bathroom
- Decreased sex drive
Risks If Left Untreated
If sleep apnea is not treated, it can result in serious problems such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Factors That May Increase the Chances of Sleep Apnea
Certain factors may increase the chances of an individual having sleep apnea. These are:
- Weight: Having excess weight increases the risk of sleep apnea. Anyone with a body mass index of 25 or more is more likely to get it. They usually experience obstructive sleep apnea due to excessive muscle tissues in the neck which can lead to the airway passage being blocked as they sleep.
- Age: While there is no age limit to when sleep apnea can occur, it is more likely in middle-aged individuals.
- Gender: The male gender is more likely to experience sleep apnea than females. However, when females hit menopause, their likelihood to experience sleep apnea increases.
- Genes: Sleep apnea is a condition you can inherit. Since there are physical conditions such as obesity and recessed jaw that contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, it is common for it to be inherited.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
To diagnose sleep apnea, you should consult a sleep apnea doctor. They will discuss things like your bedtime habits as well as your daily routine. To help with the diagnosis, the doctor may also study the individual as they sleep in a sleep disorder center. The tests will help your doctor determine the type of sleep apnea you have as well as its severity.
Measures You Can Take to Prevent Sleep Apnea
While consulting a sleep apnea doctor should be on top of your list. If you do not have severe sleep apnea, your doctor will recommend the following preventative measures to help with sleep apnea:
- Limiting or stopping the consumption of sleep medicines and alcohol, both of which relax the throat muscles.
- Smokers should quit smoking.
- Overweight individuals should lose weight.
- You should sleep on your side rather than your back.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Treatment for sleep apnea is determined by the severity and type of sleep apnea an individual has.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): CPAP is a machine that helps an individual breathe throughout the night. The machine provides a constant stream of air that nudges the airway to open up throughout the night so the body gets plenty of air. The machine is attached to a mask which the individual wears throughout the night.
- Oral Appliance Therapy: Oral appliance therapy is a device similar to a mouth guard that individuals with sleep apnea wear. The device ensures that the jaw is positioned as such that the tongue doesn’t block the airway and air flows easily down the trachea.
- Surgery: Surgery is typically only used when CPAP and oral appliance therapy both fail to treat sleep apnea. Removing the fatty tissues in the neck that are blocking the passage of the air, this surgery has been proven to help severe cases. Surgery may also be used to restructure the nose, jaw, or facial bones if they are the cause of sleep apnea.
- Weight management: Being overweight or obese can result in a thicker neck with extra tissues that block the airway. Sleep apnea doctors may recommend losing weight to get rid of the extra tissues. However, there is no guarantee that if you lose weight, you will no longer have sleep apnea.
Finding Sleep Apnea Treatment Near You
Don’t let sleep apnea continue to ruin your sleep and fatigue you during the day. We encourage you to consult a VIPcare Dental sleep apnea doctor near you. Please visit our location page to find a clinic.