Sleep Disorders: What is sleep apnea?
If you experience pauses in your breathing or shallow breathing when you are sleeping then you may be suffering from sleep apnea. These apneas can occur due to a physical blockage of airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or both.
The 3 commonly seen types of sleep apnea are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (occurs when someone has obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea)
What are the causes of disorders such as sleep apnea?
As with the rest of your body, your soft palate will relax as you fall into a deep sleep. For those with sleep apnea, the throat tissues and soft palate over-relax, causing them to collapse into the back of your throat, blocking the airway.
When the airway is blocked, the flow of oxygen ceases, and as a result, your brain forces you to wake up slightly to consciously resume breathing. You may experience hundreds of these little wake-ups a night causing a lack of deep, restful sleep.
How will your sleep apnea be diagnosed?
Symptoms of sleep apnea include heavy snoring, headaches and migraines upon waking, restless sleep, excessive daytime fatigue, problems focusing, irritability, depression and TMJ symptoms.
While it can be common for those who suffer from sleep apnea to snore, not every patient that snores has a sleep disorder. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit a medical professional so you can receive a proper diagnosis.
Once your issue has been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentists can help you get a better night’s rest with a number of treatment options. We will complete a full examination of your teeth, tongue, airway and jaw, and potentially take an x-ray of your airway, to determine the right appliance for your needs.
What are the treatment options for sleep apnea?
Dental appliances can help by positioning your lower jaw further forward, effectively pulling your tongue away from the throat and the soft palate to open your airway. These dental appliances are:
- Easy to care for
- Comfortable to wear
- Easy to insert and remove
- Quiet and not disruptive to any bed partners (unlike some sleep apnea machines)
- Convenient for travel
How does untreated sleep apnea affect your body?
Your body needs deep healing sleep in order to recharge itself. This can affect how your body responds to various conditions and diseases as well as impacting your overall quality of life.
Complications can include a wide range of conditions from metabolic syndrome and high blood sugar, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. You may also experience heart problems, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes and resistance to insulin. Because of your daytime fatigue, you may be at an increased risk of workplace or motor vehicle accidents.
Your dentist can offer advice about managing your sleep apnea symptoms and which dental appliances might be able to help.