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Posted on: February 3, 2023
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Have you heard about sleep apnea but aren’t quite sure what it means to have the condition? If so, then you might’ve heard about people stopping breathing as they sleep. While it is true that sleep apnea causes disrupted breathing, knowing that you have treatments available can help ease your concerns.
Sleep apnea occurs when your body isn’t able to breathe properly as you rest. The episodes of disrupted breathing can happen multiple times during an hour, and they’ll usually repeat throughout the night. Leaving sleep apnea untreated could lead to serious health issues, but you can talk to your dentist in Voorhees to find effective ways to maintain healthy breathing throughout the night.
What Are the Primary Causes of Sleep Apnea?
Most people’s sleep apnea is caused by the soft tissues in their mouth and throat relaxing to the point that they fill up the airway. For instance, sleeping on your back could cause your tongue to go backwards and block your ability to breathe. Once you stop taking in enough air to keep your oxygen levels high, your brain will send alarm signals to your body that wake you up.
Typically, this brief wake up is so short that you don’t remember it in the morning. You might also snort or cough as your body automatically fights to get more air. Once you fall back asleep, the whole process can happen all over again. After repeated cycles occurring through the night, you’ll wake up feeling like you never got any rest.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Sleep Apnea?
The typical person with sleep apnea is over the age of 60, and men have two to three times the chances of developing the condition than men. However, sleep apnea can strike at any age, and even young children can develop the condition. Obesity is linked to higher rates of sleep apnea, and this is because having excess weight can cause fatty deposits to develop in the throat area. These deposits can shrink the size of your airway and create less room for the air to go through as you breathe.
People who use alcohol or medications with drowsiness as a side effect tend to experience sleep apnea more often than those that don’t. The sedating effects of these substances can cause the muscles in your mouth and throat to relax too much. Smoking also generates inflammation in the throat that can clog your airway.
What Sleep Apnea Symptoms Should You Watch For?
You might not be aware that you’re quitting breathing briefly as you sleep, but you can look for these symptoms that signify that it’s time to talk to your doctor and dentist about sleep apnea.
- Feeling overtired during the day
- Falling asleep without warning in the daytime
- Waking up with a headache or still feeling fatigued
- Being moodier than normal
- Struggling with cognitive tasks
- Hearing that you snore at night from someone else
- Waking up with a breathless feeling
What Are the Differences Between the Types of Sleep Apnea?
The two main types of this condition are obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. If you have the obstructive type, then you have some type of blockage that occurs in your airway as you sleep. This blockage might be caused by overly relaxed muscles in your mouth and throat, or you might have some type of anatomical abnormality. Large tonsils or adenoids are often found in people with sleep apnea.
The other main type occurs less often, but it is still important to know about. With central sleep apnea, the problem begins with your central nervous system. Your brain fails to tell your body to keep breathing once your mind drives off to sleep. Usually, there is some type of underlying reason for the disruption in your brain’s communication channels. Having a nervous system disorder or heart disease can lead to this type of sleep apnea.
How Can You Treat Sleep Apnea?
If you are overweight, then initiating a healthy diet and exercise plan can help you shed excess pounds that contribute to the blocking of your airway at night. Practicing sleeping on your side is also effective for preventing the muscles in your throat from falling backwards once they relax. Gravity plays a role in obstructive sleep apnea, and side sleeping is a great way to counteract the downward force.
Doctors often prescribe for their patients with sleep apnea to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, or CPAP. If you need this machine, then you’ll place a mask over your face at night that is connected to a tube that forces air through your airway. The pressurized air has the effect of holding your airway open in a way that your lungs don’t do when you breathe without assistance.
Some people find a CPAP machine to be a bit noisy, or the mask feels cumbersome. Dental appliances offer a less obtrusive way to keep the soft tissues out of your throat as you sleep. A dental appliance for sleep apnea helps to hold your jaw in a forward position that keeps all of the soft tissues further away from your airway.
If none of these treatments seem to work, then doctors sometimes suggest surgery as a last resort. Surgical removal of tonsils or other blockages can help clear the passage in your windpipe.
Can Your Dentist in Voorhees Help With Sleep Apnea?
When you tell your dentist in Voorhees that you have sleep apnea, they may mention trying one of the dental appliances. Depending upon your needs, you can use a dental appliance that holds your tongue in a better position. Or, you might use an appliance that moves your jaw forward. Some types of appliances do both jobs, which gives you an even better chance of resting peacefully.
Were you recently diagnosed with sleep apnea? Give our dentist in Voorhees a call to tell them all about your sleep disorder. We’ll help you select an appliance that fits your sleeping habits, and we can even make adjustments so that it is comfortable enough that you’ll want to wear it every night.