Are you drowsy during the day with no explanation? Do you snore loudly or wake up breathless in the middle of the night? If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be one of more than 22 million Americans who are affected by sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep, as many as 20 to 30 times per hour. Each time you stop breathing in your sleep, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain, which temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing. Since the time spent awake is so short-lived, most people with sleep apnea do not remember it, and many feel like they are getting a good night’s sleep, when in fact, they are not. The constant wake-sleep, wake-sleep cycle prevents those with sleep apnea from achieving deep sleep, resulting in a constant drowsy feeling during the day. Plus, this sleep fragmentation hampers the biological restorative function of sleep.
What are the signs of sleep apnea?
The following symptoms may indicate the existence of sleep apnea. If you notice one or more of these, contact our Pasadena Sleep Dental Office.
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Loud snoring at night
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Extreme drowsiness throughout the day
- Falling asleep behind the wheel of your car
Are there different types of sleep apnea?
There are three categories of sleep apnea. The most common is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This occurs due to a physical blockage of the wind pipe. It is usually blocked by the collapsing of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. Less common is central sleep apnea (CSA), in which breathing stops because the muscles involved don’t receive the proper signal from the brain. Lastly, some people suffer from “mixed” or “complex” sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central.
What are risk factors for sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in males than females, and more common in older adults (40+) than younger adults and children. However, anyone — regardless of gender or age — can suffer from sleep apnea. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, drinking, use of sedatives or tranquilizers, and family history. Central sleep apnea strikes most often in people with heart disorders, neuromuscular disorders, strokes, or brain tumors. It is also more common in males.
Is sleep apnea dangerous?
Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical problem and if left untreated can lead to many serious health issues. The ongoing state of fatigue caused by sleep apnea can lead to problems at work or school, as well as danger when driving or operating heavy machinery.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Treatments for sleep apnea depend on the severity of each individual case, and the type of apnea. Basic treatment can be behavioral — for instance, patients are instructed to lose weight, stop smoking, or sleep on their sides instead of on their backs. Beyond that, oral devices can be used to position the mouth in such a way that prevents throat blockage. In more severe cases, a CPAP machine is used.
What should I do if I suspect that someone in my family suffers from sleep apnea?
Contact our Pasadena Dental Sleep Practice. We can get you set up with a home sleep study. A Board Certified Sleep Physician will read your study and give a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. Depending on the patient’s situation, treatment may involve an oral device that we can custom-create for you.