Do you wake up tired and listless? Are you drowsy all day and have to nap once, maybe twice? Do you snore so loudly that you wake yourself up? Have you awakened breathless in the middle of the night?
If you can say “yes” to any or all of those questions, you may have sleep apnea. According to The American Sleep Apnea Association, more than 22 million Americans have sleep apnea. It is a serious condition that can cause major health problems, even death, if not treated.
Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- breathing stops 20-30 times each hour during sleep
- waking up once the breathing stops
- loud snoring
- snorting or choking sounds
- morning or post-sleep headaches
- fatigue during the day
- drowsiness that never ends
- listlessness and inability to think clearly
The ASAA identifies three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: a blockage of the airway occurs when the tongue falls onto the soft palate which then collapses against the back of the throat during sleep, closing the airway
- Central Sleep Apnea: the airway isn’t blocked, however, the brain cannot tell the muscles to breathe
- Complex Sleep Apnea: combines both obstructive and central sleep apneas as during each apnea event, the brain partially awakens the sleeper, to signal breathing to resume. Severe sleep apnea causes this to happen hundreds of times during sleep. It is intense late with rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. So, the patient’s sleep is disrupted continually and of poor quality. Most disturbing, this disorder continuously reduces the oxygenation of the blood, damaging the sleeper’s physical system.
Sleep apnea is a not a joke. In fact, it is a serious condition that can be fatal. Men suffer more from it than women and it’s commonly seen in more adults than children. The risk factors are many and they are serious for the health of the sleep apnea sufferer.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are certain factors put you at risk for sleep apnea:
- high blood pressure
- chronic nasal congestion
- narrowed airway
- family history of sleep apnea
Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is so dangerous that, if not treated, it can lead to strokes, high blood pressure, heart failure and even death. It is no laughing matter as its effects can extend to difficulties with medications, complications during surgery, problems with driving or traveling and with operating heavy machinery.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
As we have seen, not all sleep apnea is the same. Some sleep apnea conditions are more severe than others. A physician may recommend weight loss, smoking cessation, prescriptions or natural medications or different ways of sleeping.
However, in any number of cases, the physician may recommend that a dentist create an oral device that is fitted for the sleep apnea sufferer. This oral device may prevent throat blockage. Lastly, if it is the most severe case, a breathing mask, or even surgery may be recommended.
Sleep Apnea Action Plan
If you, a family member or loved one, suspect sleep apnea, our dentistry can recommend a sleep apnea specialist. The specialist will recommend a sleep study to diagnose the extent of it. Upon completion of the study, treatment may include an oral device which All Smiles Dentistry can develop for you or a loved one.