Sleep apnea is a dangerous and life-altering sleep disorder that affects a significant number of the population. Not only does it cause many individuals to feel lethargic and fatigued during their waking hours, but it can also cause a number of destructive health conditions.
Dr. Williams and the staff at Ascent Family Dental can help treat your sleep apnea. Regain your healthy, well-rested life with innovative and effective treatment options.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder that interrupts an individual’s sleep. People who suffer from untreated sleep apnea stop breathing throughout their sleep. During these periods of ceased breathing, one’s brain and body are deprived of oxygen. Sleep apnea can be incredibly dangerous and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.
The Two Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is categorized into two primary types based on the cause:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
The cause of obstructive sleep apnea, the more common of the two types, is obstruction or blockage of the airway. When an individual who suffers from obstructive sleep apnea falls asleep, their throat muscles and tissues relax and block the entrance to the airway.
Central Sleep Apnea
With central sleep apnea, there is no physical structure blocking the airway, but instead, the brain does not signal the throat and chest muscles to breathe. This failed signal means an individuals’ body cannot control breathing during sleep, resulting in interrupted sleep.
What are the Effects of Sleep Apnea?
Regardless of the type of sleep apnea a person is diagnosed with, there are many negative consequences and effects associated with sleep apnea, including:
- Sleepiness. When sleep is interrupted, it’s challenging to get the appropriate number of deep, restful sleep. Even those who do get the correct amount of sleep are not able to gain enough REM sleep. Those with untreated sleep apnea often find themselves tired throughout the day. They may never feel well-rested, and it ultimately affects their overall quality of life.
- Higher risk of accidents. Chronic fatigue secondary to interrupted sleep cycles can lead to minor or even life-threatening accidents. Those with unaddressed sleep apnea are at a greater risk of becoming involved in car accidents and other grave scenarios.
- Memory loss. While you sleep, your brain processes information to form memories. But with interrupted sleep, you may not be able to do so as effectively. As a result, it can be challenging to remember details, make decisions appropriately, and negatively impact fine motor skills. Sleep deprivation may also lead to dementia.
- Increased risk of heart disease. Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea specifically have an increased risk of sustaining a heart attack, stroke or going into heart failure. When you are unable to breathe during sleep due to sleep apnea, your body’s oxygen level drops drastically. This oxygen deprivation increases the stress hormone levels in the body, which over time contribute to increased blood pressure or hypertension. This damages the heart and blood vessels, putting you at higher risk for heart complications.
- Obesity. Unfortunately, sleep apnea can impact your weight which can have negative health consequences. This can happen for a few different reasons: those who are incredibly tired throughout the day as a result of sleep apnea may not be motivated to exercise or eat nutritiously. Additionally, oxygen deprivation and the increase of stress hormones in the body secondary to sleep apnea lead to weight gain.
Am I at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Although anyone can suffer from sleep apnea, a number of different factors put some individuals at an increased risk. The following conditions may indicate that you’re at risk for sleep apnea:
- Wide neck diameter.
- Airway conditions or disease.
- Take sedative medications.
- Overweight or obese body condition (BMI > 25).
- Family history of sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Methods
Many individuals may not even be aware that they suffer from sleep apnea. Although they are woken many times throughout the night from interruptions in normal breathing, they may not remember these episodes in the morning.
If you suspect that you may be at risk for sleep apnea or are experiencing it, there are several methods that can give you more insight. Your doctor will recommend the method that’s best suited for you. Two of the most common methods for diagnosing sleep apnea include:
- Home testing. If appropriate, your doctor may advise a home sleep apnea test whereby you sleep in your own bed and data is collected. You’ll likely wear a small monitor at night that will carefully measure your vital signs as you sleep. This may give your doctor a good idea of whether you have sleep apnea or not; however, they still may recommend an overnight in-office study.
- In-lab sleep study. The most effective method of determining a sleep apnea diagnosis is through an in-laboratory sleep study. You’ll spend the night in a sleep lab where sleep specialists will record your movement, heart rate, oxygen levels, respiratory rate, and brain activity. This is the most comprehensive method of testing.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
If the sleep specialists determine that you do, in fact, suffer from sleep apnea, several different treatment options can help. Oral appliances are arguably the most common and least invasive treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea.
Regardless of your age or oral health status, Dr. Williams can create and fit a customized oral appliance to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. An oral appliance fits like a retainer and can be placed in the mouth before bedtime then easily removed in the morning.
How Does an Oral Appliance Work?
By keeping the tongue and jaw in place overnight, the oral appliance allows wearers to experience restful sleep. The tissues of the soft palate are unable to fall back and obstruct the airway, allowing the individual to sleep without interruptions in breathing or oxygen levels.
Control Snoring and Sleep Apnea with the Help of Ascent Family Dental
Dental professionals are highly trained specialists who focus on not just your teeth but all structures of the oral cavity. If you suffer from sleep apnea, Dr. Williams and his experienced team can help.
Don’t wait—lift the fog of sleep apnea fatigue today. If you have any questions or concerns regarding how Dr. Williams can help improve the quality of your life, reach out to this team today.