A Guide to Sleep Apnea

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What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that disrupts, reduces or stops the natural breathing pattern during sleep. Different types of sleep apnea include:

Obstructive sleep apnea - A physical obstruction or blockage of the airway prevents free flow of air during sleep.

Central sleep apnea - The airway isn't blocked, but the brain doesn't signal the muscles to breathe properly, causing cessation in breathing during sleep.

Complex sleep apnea syndrome – A combination of both Obstructive and Central Sleep apnea.

Disruption of sleep combined with chronic or severe reduced oxygen intake may lead to serious health concerns. If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, and even death.

What Can Cause Sleep Apnea?

The following factors may contribute to sleep apnea:

  • Throat muscle weakness
  • Swollen tissue such as adenoids or tonsils
  • Sleeping medications
  • Older age
  • Nasal obstruction or congestion
  • Drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco
  • Pregnancy
  • Excessive fat in or your throat due to obesity
  • Narrow upper airways
  • A genetic predisposition

Risk Factors

Several factors may increase your chances of developing sleep apnea including:

Anatomy - The shape of the jaw, mouth and face can all have a different factor when it comes to sleep apnea.

Body weight - Most obstructive sleep apnea occurs because of a combination of body weight and anatomy.

Genetics - Obstructive sleep apnea tends to run in families. If you have a close family member who has sleep apnea, you're more likely to develop it, too.

Sex and age – sleep apnea is more common in men; however, risk for sleep apnea increases for both men and women with age.

Use of certain substances - Medications and substances such as narcotics, alcohol and certain prescription drugs can worsen sleep apnea.

What Are the Typical Symptoms?

Signs and Symptoms of sleep apnea can vary and may include:

  • Snoring or waking while gasping for air
  • daily fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • low energy
  • morning headaches
  • excessively tired
  • poor memory
  • waking up unrefreshed
  • moodiness

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that 12% of the population, or 29.4 million people, have sleep apnea. About 80% of these are undiagnosed cases. This figure is climbing as obesity rates increase and the American population ages.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

A variety of sleep apnea solutions are available.

Lifestyle - Lifestyle changes like losing weight, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking are common ways to reduce sleep apnea symptoms.

CPAP - Continuous positive airway pressure machine, otherwise known as CPAP, is a popular treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Airway pressure machines deliver a constant flow of air through tubing and a mask and into your airway. They are proven to be an effective treatment for sleep apnea.

Oral Device – Known as a Mandibular Advancement Device, oral appliance therapy is an effective and comfortable way to treat sleep apnea. Your dentist fabricates a custom device to position the jaw to effectively open the airway and improve airflow. Oral appliance therapy is effective to reduce snoring as well. Most patient find the appliance as a comfortable alternative to CPAP.

Surgery – In some cases, surgery may be recommended.

Call Medical Arts Dentistry Today

If you think you are at risk for sleep apnea, contact your medical provider for a consultation. If you have been diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea or would like more information on a custom sleep device, contact our office for a consultation. Medical Arts Dentistry is here to help. Call us at 912-921-0401