What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. A person suffering from this sleep disorder stops and starts breathing repeatedly, hundreds of times while sleeping. Their breathing can stop for 10 seconds or longer! Even mild sleep apnea should not go untreated. This sleep disorder prevents enough oxygen from getting to the brain and the rest of the body.
There are two types:
1.Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
2.Central sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common than central sleep apnea. When the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep, the airway is obstructed.
Central sleep apnea occurs when a person’s brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Instability in a person’s respiratory control center causes breathing to stop and start during sleep.
What risk factors increase the likelihood of developing this sleep disorder?
If a person has any of the following risk factors, they are at an increased risk for developing this sleep disorder:
- over 40 years old
- a man with a neck measurement of 17 inches or greater
- a woman with a neck measurement of 16 inches or greater
- tonsils are large
- tongue is large
- jawbone is small
- sleep apnea is in the family medical history
- gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- deviated septum, allergies or sinus problems that cause nasal obstruction
This sleep disorder is not partial to adults alone. Children can be affected as well.
How would a person know if he or she has this sleep disorder?
If a person complains of:
- Excessive snoring
- Choking or gasping during sleep
- Morning headaches
- Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat (typically caused by open-mouth breathing during sleep)
- Impaired mental or emotional function
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
They may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
What other health problems might a person encounter because of this sleep disorder?
Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause the following health problems:
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid issues
- Heart failure
- Irregular heart beats
- Heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
- Poor performance in everyday activities
How does a person treat this sleep disorder?
A dentist may refer their patient to a doctor of sleep medicine for a sleep study. Sherwood Dental dentists refer our patients to Synergy Wellness Centre for free sleep studies.
If a sleep test proves a patient is suffering from sleep apnea, more sleep testing may be needed. Further studies can help determine the best treatment option. Depending on the severity of the sleep disorder, a dentist can offer the following solutions:
- Make behavioral changes (alter sleeping position, lose weight, quit smoking)
- Wear an oral appliance during sleep. An oral appliance fits like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Research shows that oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment option for sleep apnea. The oral appliance repositions the jaw and tongue to improve airflow.
- Suggest CPAP from Sleep Therapeutics
A good night’s sleep is powerful enough to restore body and mind. It also holds the power to save the lives of those suffering from this sleep disorder.