Many people know that sleep apnea is what causes snoring, but they may not know that it is a very serious disorder that can cause your body to actually stop breathing when you sleep. Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management and can result in serious health complications if not treated. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sort of chronic sleep disorder.
Many sufferers never gain consciousness after an apnea episode and so many do no realize why they feel sleepy and cranky the next day. It is estimated that up to 80 - 90 percent of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed.
With sleep apnea the throat muscles relax and the tongue can fall back into the throat, closing the airway and inflicting the oxygen supply. Sufferers of sleep apnea actually stop breathing for short periods. This stoppage of breathing can cause people to wake up hundreds of times during the night, unbeknownst to themselves. The name is apnea literally means without breath in Greek.
Sleep apnea can lead to sleep deprived days for sufferers as well as sleepless nights for their partners and is the leading causes of daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).
Sleep apnea can also cause headaches, memory loss, and depression and decreased sex drive. If it is left untreated, patients can eventually have stokes, diabetes, increased blood pressure, heart attacks, and even death.
There are really two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, which is when the throat muscles relax and is the most common form.
- Central sleep apnea, which is when the brain doesn't send muscles the right signals.
There are certain factors that can put sleep apnea patients at risk and they include excess weight (obesity), neck circumference, being male, being older, use and overuse of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers, and smoking.
To treat sleep apnea, most dentists and doctors can recommend lifestyle changes, though surgery or breathing devices can relieve the symptoms. Light sleep apnea can be treated by lifestyle changes including increased exercise and choosing better diet.
Indeed, since almost 70 percent of those who have sleep apnea are obese, losing weight has been known to help many patients. Giving up smoking and abstaining from alcohol, tranquilizers and sleeping pills also helps many patients. Not sleeping on your back, and instead trying to sleep on your side or abdomen is also recommended.
For obstructive sleep apnea, treatments include devices that push air pressure through a mask placed over your nose while you sleep, devices that adjusts the pressure as you sleep, or an oral appliance meant to keep the throat open.
If all other treatments to not work, then surgery may be needed. Surgery is usually only an option after other treatments have failed. With surgery, doctors enlarge the patients' airway that is causing the blockage though tissue removal, jaw repositioning, implants, or creating a new air passageways (or tracheostomy).
The fine folks at Metrotech Dental, a place for Dental Equipment Repair in Oregon, remind us that if you think you have sleep apnea, or have been told by friends or a partner that they are worried about you when you sleep due excessive snoring and gaps in breathing, there are a few simple tests available you find to help see if you should talk to your doctor.