What is Sleep Apnea?

The Symptoms and the Dangers

  • Snoring
  • Waking during sleep multiple times
  • Exhaustion or drowsiness during the day
  • Dry throat after waking
  • Morning headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability or depression
  • Urination during sleep
  • Multiple health risks including hypertension, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the throat relax during sleep, blocking the airway. This obstruction causes the interruption in breathing and is the most common type of sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles controlling breathing, and causes the body to temporarily stop trying to breathe. Sleep apnea can also exist in a combination of these two types.  Left unchecked, sleep apnea can contribute to cardiovascular disease, weight gain and various forms of physical discomfort.

 

adult showing a smile

Snoring

Because snoring is so common, it is a condition that can be ignored. Right? Wrong. Even though most people take no action to solve their snoring problem, the fact remains that snoring is often linked to a very serious health condition known as sleep apnea.

While it isn’t the cause for all patients who seek help from their dentists, having undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea can cause all sorts of health risks. Of course for some patients, snoring may be a result of something less serious, but sleep apnea cannot be ruled out unless proper testing (a sleep study or polysomnogram) and examinations have been completed.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are fatigue and restlessness experienced throughout the day.

Why Do I Snore?

Each patient will present a unique combination of factors that cause snoring; however, snoring often occurs because the soft tissues in the throat, along with the soft palate, vibrate due to airway restriction. The tissues involved include the following:

  • Tongue
  • Soft palate
  • Uvula
  • Tonsils
  • Adenoids
  • Excessive fatty tissues within the throat

Although other factors such as sleeping position, a cold or other illness may cause you to snore, if you find that you are snoring on a regular basis, it is time to consult with Dr. Arnold. Dr. Arnold is trained to address and properly treat snoring. Remember, snoring affects not only you but those around you, especially if your snoring is loud.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea – A Possible Link

While not every patient who suffers from nightly snoring also suffers from sleep apnea, snoring is a sign of possible sleep apnea. Knowing whether you suffer from sleep apnea will make finding the snoring treatment you require much easier. Those patients who snore as a result of sleep apnea often need treatment focused on treating sleep apnea, as opposed to simple snoring.

Snore No More!

If you have sleep apnea, simply masking the snoring with a snoring device is not enough.

If you are unsure whether you have sleep apnea or if you’re looking to find the proper device to treat snoring, be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Arnold to determine the best course of action. Dr. Arnold has experience working with patients who suffer from sleep apnea, as well as those who snore at night. He will help you obtain the proper testing and diagnosis with the help of trained medical professionals.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are fatigue and restlessness throughout the day. These symptoms occur because your body has been deprived of restful sleep. Because airflow is blocked, the body is deprived of oxygen. Thus, the brain alerts your body to wake up, although you may not be consciously aware that is happening. The result is that you are constantly tired and may even be falling asleep at inappropriate times.

You may have the best intentions of sleeping 8 hours a night and you may even be in bed for 8 hours, but it doesn’t always mean that you’re sleeping.

Do I have it?

A sleep study (also called a polysomnogram) is the only definitive way to tell whether or not you suffer from sleep apnea. It can also determine how severe that apnea might be. If you are concerned about symptoms you may be exhibiting or that your partner has observed during the night, or if your result on the self-test below is troubling, then make an appointment today.

Take the following self-test to determine how your level of “sleepiness” compares with the general population on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.  The response provided after submitting your answers will give you more information regarding any action you should take.

How do I treat it?

There are a variety of options for the treatment and management of sleep apnea. By treating the symptoms, the dangers of living with sleep apnea lessen. In severe cases, it may be necessary for breathing appliances, dental appliances or even surgery.

CPAP

The CPAP is a widely used breathing appliance. CPAP is an abbreviation for the continuous positive airway pressure machine. It is the most widely used method of treatment as well as the most effective. The patient wears a mask connected to a machine via an air hose that delivers a steady flow of air throughout the night. Patients who use a CPAP machine never have to worry about breathing at night. Even though the CPAP is the go-to treatment for sleep apnea, many patients do not comply with usage. Among other issues, patients who are fitted with a CPAP often complain of discomfort and noise. Others complain about rashes caused by the mask or frustration with the straps that hold the mask in place.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliance therapy, or OAT, is an excellent and effective treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It is similar to a mouth guard that pulls the jaw forward, opening up the back of the throat and giving more room for air to pass through. This is most effective to those suffering from mild obstructive sleep apnea.

Surgery

Surgery is only used in rare instances in the most severe cases of sleep apnea and is only used as a last resort.

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