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What is sleep apnea?
If you have ever suddenly woken from your sleep choking or gasping for air, you may have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, which can sometimes be accompanied by snoring, is a serious sleep condition in which breathing stops for 10-30 seconds during sleep. When this happens your brain is knocked out of its sleep cycle to help you breathe normally again.
Sleep apnea, which can be life-threatening, ranges from mild to moderate to severe, with sleep disruptions occurring anywhere from 5–30 or more times in one hour. If you believe you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea, a consultation with a Dental365Sleep specialist can help you discover what treatment options are available.
What causes sleep apnea?
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Causes for sleep apnea will vary based on the type of sleep apnea. For example, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when certain muscles in the back of your throat relax. When these muscles relax, your tongue or other tissues can partially or completely block airways and prevent air from flowing. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is the result of the brain momentarily failing to send signals to your breathing muscles. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is a mix of the two.
Risk factors and causes for obstructive sleep apnea may include:
- Being overweight
- Having a narrowed airway
- Having a thicker neck
- Alcohol use
- Nasal congestion
- Being male
- Taking sedatives or tranquilizers
- Having certain heart disorders
- Using narcotic pain medications
- Having a stroke
What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?
Central and obstructive sleep apnea may share similar symptoms. However, since the causes of central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea differ, symptoms of central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea may also differ. Only through testing by your doctor will you know whether you are suffering from central or obstructive sleep apnea. Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea may include:
- Heavy snoring
- Choking or gasping for air during sleep
- Sleep episodes in which breathing stops
- Waking up with a headache or dry mouth
- Difficulties staying asleep
- Feeling extreme fatigue during the day
- Having trouble concentrating in the day
- Feeling irritable
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
To help determine if you have sleep apnea, your doctor will begin by gathering information about your sleep history as well as your general medical history. If someone sleeps in the same household as you, they can also help provide your doctor with additional information about your sleeping patterns and behaviors. Your doctor can then refer you to a sleep specialist who can help determine the cause of your sleep apnea and help identify and recommend potential treatment options.
A visit with a sleep specialist may include an in-lab or an at-home sleep apnea test to help measure specific sleep data and help determine which type of sleep apnea you may be suffering from. Based on which type of sleep apnea you have, your doctor may recommend an additional visit to an ear, nose and throat doctor, a cardiologist, or a neurologist for further diagnosis.
Can sleep apnea lead to complications if left untreated?
Left untreated, sleep apnea may lead to additional complications, including:
- High blood pressure
- Type II diabetes
- Liver abnormalities
- Metabolic syndrome
- Complications during surgery
- Complications with certain medications
How is sleep apnea treated?
Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend various treatment options, including lifestyle changes and surgical treatment options. Before recommending surgery, your doctor may suggest the following conservative treatment options:
If the above treatment options are ineffective, your doctor may recommend the following surgical procedure options:
- Tissue removal
- Tissue shrinkage
- Nerve stimulation
- Jaw repositioning
If you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, a consultation with a dental sleep specialist can help you be on your way towards achieving a better night’s rest. The dental sleep specialists at Dental365Sleep offer modern treatment solutions with high-quality care and appointment availability seven days a week for maximum convenience. Call 844.365.DENTAL or click the appointment request button to schedule an appointment or to learn more about treatment options for sleep apnea.