Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that occurs when an individual's breathing is interrupted during sleep. Pauses in breathing can occur up to 60 times per hour or more and can occur five to 30 times an hour in some people. There are two main types of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when muscles in the back of the throat relax and narrow the airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This may be due to heart failure, stroke, or brain tumor.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when throat muscles relax too much while sleeping and cause the airway to become blocked, making breathing difficult or even impossible. This can be due to excess weight or a larger neck, but it's most common in men who are over age 40.
In central sleep apnea, the muscles that control breathing don't receive the right signal from the brain. It can occur at any age but is more common in middle-aged men, obese people, and people who have heart conditions.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The most common symptom of sleep apnea is excessive snoring. However, not everyone who snores has the condition. Therefore, other symptoms of sleep apnea include daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, depression, headaches, memory problems, and dry mouth due to breathing through the mouth at night. Other symptoms can include insomnia, sleepwalking, frequent urination at night, waking up gasping for air or choking, night sweats, heartburn, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating during the day, and driving while drowsy. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems.
Snoring is a telltale sign of sleep apnea – but not all snorers have this condition. In fact, many people don't even realize they are snoring at all; it's just a regular part of falling asleep for them. But if a person's snoring interrupts sleep on a regular basis or is accompanied by other symptoms such as daytime drowsiness and irritability, there is a chance they may have sleep apnea. It is important for them to see a dentist for an evaluation. Dentists who have received the proper training can screen patients for signs of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. If your dentist finds you have apnea or another sleeping disorder, they will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation and possible treatment.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two different types of sleep apnea – obstructive and central disorders. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of the disorder, which causes the tissues in the back of the throat to narrow during sleep and block the airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe during periods of intense sleep. Both types of sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes and oral appliances that help to keep the airways open. In some cases, surgery is required to correct the underlying cause of the condition such as enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum.
Treatment For Sleep Apnea
In addition to lifestyle changes and oral appliance therapy, the most common treatment option for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure treatment. CPAP is a mask worn over the nose and/or mouth that is connected to a machine to provide a steady stream of air that keeps the airways open during the night. The air pressure from the machine can be increased when sleeping on your back and then decreased when sleeping on your side. Another option for treatment is an oral appliance that moves the tongue forward to help keep the airways open. Orthodontic procedures can be used to correct teeth that may be blocking the airway.
Treatment for sleep apnea depends on what type of sleep apnea you have and how severe it is.
Wondering which type of treatment is best for you? Schedule an appointment with your dentist today to discuss your sleep apnea treatment options.