When the tissues at the back of the throat relax during sleep, the airway narrows and vibrates, causing snoring. For some people, loud snoring signals a more serious condition, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition that blocks the airway and momentarily interferes with normal breathing. Fortunately, the brain realizes more oxygen is needed and wakes a person up to breathe. OSA sufferers can experience hundreds of apnea episodes in one night, but they likely do not remember them. In fact, many who live alone, or sleep separately, often are unaware of their condition.
A lack of restful sleep as well as “poking” by an irritated sleeping partner often prompt many people to seek relief. The trained dentists at Washington Center for Dentistry can prescribe a CPAP machine to control the condition. CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) pumps air through a nasal mask to keep the airway open. While it is an effective treatment, some patients find it difficult to tolerate the CPAP unit while they are sleeping. If this is the case, the dentist can offer other alternatives to relieve sleep apnea/snoring symptoms.
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Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
One of the problems with diagnosing sleep apnea is that many of its symptoms are nonspecific and may be ignored for years without realizing how serious they are. Do not ignore these symptoms:
- Waking with a headache or feeling unrested
- Daytime sleepiness–especially if you doze off during tasks
- Short term memory problems
- Inability to focus
- Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
- Slow metabolism or an inability to lose weight despite exercise and dieting
- ADD or ADHD symptoms
- Decreased motivation or sex drive
If you notice several of these symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to get tested for sleep apnea. With sleep apnea in children, the first signs are often sudden behavioral or performance problems at school. The risks of sleep apnea are cumulative, so it’s important to get treatment sooner, rather than continue to suffer the risks associated with the condition.
Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
While people with sleep apnea think they are sleeping well, they may be struggling for air. As a result, they never receive the benefits of the nightly relaxing sleep needed for good health. Without the feeling of being refreshed, these men and women often drag through their days. More disturbing is that matters can grow worse since the periodic lack of oxygen can cause high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms—even a heart attack or stroke.
Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition that may increase a patient’s risk of premature death by 50% and risk of cancer death by up to five times. Proper treatment can virtually eliminate these risks, but in order to receive treatment, a patient first has to know that he or she has a problem, which means being aware of the symptoms of sleep apnea.
To find out if you exhibit sleep apnea symptoms, complete the simple questionnaire:
- Do you snore?
- Is your snoring interrupted by pauses or choking?
- Has anyone ever said that you stop breathing or pause in your breathing during sleep?
- Do you feel fatigued, exhausted or tired?
- Do you have high blood pressure or diabetes?
- Do you wake up at night or in the morning with headaches?
- Have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep while driving?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea?
- Do you have problems keeping your legs still at night or need to move them to feel comfortable?
- Do you usually get less than six hours of sleep each night?
- Do you feel that your sleep is not refreshing or restful?
- Do you have periods of the day when it is hard to pay attention, to remember things or to stay awake?
If you answered “yes” to some or most of these questions, you should contact Washington Center for Dentistry to set up a sleep apnea consultation. Join our many patients who benefit from simple treatment.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, is caused by the collapse of your airway during sleep. Snoring is caused by the narrowing of your airway during sleep, so most–70% or more–obstructive sleep apnea sufferers are also snorers. If your spouse complains about your snoring, ask him or her to listen to the pattern of your snoring. If it ends in a choking sound followed by a gasp, you probably suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
The less common type of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, is due to a brain dysfunction in which your brain simply stops telling your body to breathe. It is not associated with snoring.
FAQs About Sleep Apnea
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
The most common symptom sleep apnea is loud, frequent snoring. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include frequent periods during the night in which you stop breathing for up to 10 seconds. Because it occurs while you are sleeping, the symptoms of sleep apnea are most frequently noticed by a loved one.
What are the dangers of sleep apnea?
Your body requires a sufficient amount of oxygen at all times to function normally, In addition to feeling groggy or fuzzy headed from a lack of sleep, sleep apnea has been linked to several serious health issues including hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Sleep apnea can also affect proper functioning of your brain causing memory loss, difficulties concentrating, and severe mood swings.
What causes sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea may be caused by a narrow airway but is most often caused by lifestyle factors. Smoking, drinking, and weight gain are all known causes of sleep apnea.
Can lifestyle changes improve sleep apnea?
If your sleep apnea is caused by excessive weight, or lifestyle choices such as drinking alcohol or smoking, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of future episodes. Studies have found that people who get plenty of exercise, eat a healthy diet, and refrain from alcohol and cigarettes enjoy a much sounder, more beneficial sleep cycle.
What is the treatment for sleep apnea?
At Washington Center for Dentistry, we recommend you combine healthy lifestyle choices with a customized oral device to be worn while you sleep. The devices are molded to fit precisely onto your teeth and act to hold your tongue and lower jaw forward, allowing air to more easily travel through your mouth. These devices are comfortable and unobtrusive, and have been proven effective in treating this dangerous disorder.
During a “Snoring Consultation” appointment in our office, patients always ask the following two questions: “What causes snoring?” and “What is “sleep apnea?” These topics are all over the media, and patients often are concerned about what their snoring could mean. They are not surprised to hear their tendency to “drag” through their day is a common snoring-related experience, brought on by lower mental and physical energy. Please contact our office today to schedule your "Snoring Consultation."