While occasional snoring, say when the person has some congestion, can be an annoyance, sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. There are various iterations of sleep apnea and various treatments to solve the problem. At Clear Lake Dental Care, we have extensive experience treating sleep apnea. Loud snoring, particularly if it’s accompanied by breathing pauses or gasps for air, should not be ignored.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where the patient has repeated breathing interruptions during sleep which in turn cause the choking sound as the body struggles to take in air. These interruptions occur when the upper airway and airflow are blocked during sleep. These interruptions may occur many times each night and can be caused by structural abnormalities or brain malfunctions. Whenever breathing stops, your body’s oxygen intake is affected, and this can have serious consequences. The condition affects millions of Americans, but few do anything about it.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
These are the common symptoms of sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring (more prominent with obstructive sleep apnea)
- Abrupt awakenings from sleep
- Awakening with shortness of breath (central sleep apnea)
- Episodes of breathing cessation witnessed by another person
- Waking up with a headache in the morning
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Waking up with a dry mouth or a sore throat
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Attention problems
types of sleep apnea
There are different types of sleep apnea, defined by the causes.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) — This is the more common form, occurring when muscles in the throat relax, blocking airflow.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA) — This is caused when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) — This syndrome differs from OSA in that there aren’t pauses in breathing or decreases in breathing. Patients with UARS simply require greater effort in breathing to get past obstructions.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome — This sleep apnea is categorized as a person having both OSA and CSA.
What causes sleep apnea?
Snoring occurs when there is resistance to airflow when a person is sleeping. The resistance causes the noise. Sleep apnea involves a more pronounced blockage. Sleep apnea can have varied causes including:
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Cardiovascular problems
- Throat and tongue muscles that are abnormally relaxed
- Nasal congestion
- Family history
Specifically, OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support all of the surrounding tissues such as the tonsils and the side walls of the throat. When the muscles relax, the airway narrows or closes. Your brain senses this inability to breathe and briefly wakes you from sleep to reopen the airway. These lapses in sleep can be so brief you don’t even remember them. These actions can involve a snorting, choking, or gasping sound and can repeat the pattern up to 30 times per hour all night.
In CSA, your brain doesn’t tell your breathing muscles to do their job. Consequently, you make no effort to breathe for a short period of time. You then awaken with shortness of breath or have difficulty even falling asleep.
risks of Obstructive and Central sleep apnea
Certain factors increase your risk for sleep apnea. These are for OSA:
- Obesity — People who are obese have four times the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits around the upper airway can add to obstruction.
- Neck circumference — People with thicker necks often have narrower airways (men 17 inches and larger, women 15 inches and larger).
- Men — Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea.
- Age — Sleep apnea is more common in older adults.
- Narrowed airway — Some people simply have a naturally narrow throat or have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
- Family history — Sleep apnea runs in families.
- Smoking — Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA.
- Alcohol or sedatives — These substances relax the throat muscles.
For central sleep apnea, people are more at risk if they are older, have heart disorders, are using narcotic pain medication, or have suffered a stroke.
Sleep Apnea Side Effects
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems:
- Depression and anxiety
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Sleep apnea can also make you sleepy during the day and cause loss of focus as well as driving and work-related accidents. If you continue to let sleep apnea disturb your sleep, you are in danger of developing at least one of these medical problems that sleep apnea has been known to contribute to. Most of these medical problems can be life-threatening if nothing is done about them. Also, each problem can lead to other related medical conditions. Instead of living with sleep apnea, have it treated at Clear Lake Dental Care, and you can sleep with the assurance that sleep apnea is not damaging your health.
How to treat sleep apnea
At Clear Lake Dental Care, our treatments for sleep apnea start with lifestyle changes such as losing weight, limiting alcohol consumption, or quitting smoking. From there, we progress to oral appliance therapy. Severe cases may require surgery as the patient is in danger of developing serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure and heart problems.
What is oral appliance therapy?
Oral appliance therapy uses what is akin to a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Worn only during sleep, the oral appliance supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway. At Clear Lake Dental Care, we utilize the SomnoDent Oral Appliance. In contrast to the mask and tubes necessary with CPAP and other breathing devices, oral appliance therapy may be easier for patients to tolerate which is why we utilize it in our office.
What is SomnoDent?
SomnoDent is the oral appliance we use in our office. This appliance should be worn while sleeping to move the jaw forward to a comfortable position. This allows the jaw and tissues to relax, giving you a good nights sleep. The SomnoDent is made from impressions of your teeth so they are custom-fit to you. With this sleep appliance, you are still able to open your jaw fully, drink, and even speak clearly.
Sleep Apnea Surgery
Surgery is usually only an option if a patient has severe sleep apnea and it is endangering his or her life. At Clear Lake Dental Care, we first exhaust other treatments and find a solution for the vast majority of our sleep apnea patients.
The Impact of Sleep Apnea on Your Family Life
If you suffer from sleep apnea, it can greatly affect your relationship with your significant other. Sharing a bedroom can be a challenge because of sharing space that is the most personal space possible. Problems can occur when one of the people sharing that room has their sleep affected by their sleep partner. Treating your sleep apnea will put an end to these troublesome problems like snoring.
Learning about a condition that you may have is often the catalyst to seeking out treatment. The symptoms of sleep apnea are usually viewed by those suffering from them as bothersome rather than serious. We are here to tell you that sleep apnea is a serious condition and needs to be treated immediately. If you let us help you treat your sleep apnea, we can restore your health back to normal and remove the worry of living with this potentially life-threatening condition.
Your snoring may be more than a passing problem
While snoring in a partner can be a cause of annoyance and friction, it can also be a sign of more serious issues with sleep apnea. At Clear Lake Dental Care, we are experts in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. If you have symptoms such as morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, and others listed above, please give us a call at 281-557-8097 and we’ll get you on the path to a good night’s sleep for you…and your partner!