Do you get plenty of sleep each night but still wake up feeling fatigued? You may not be getting restorative sleep because of sleep apnea.
This may surprise you — when many people think about sleep apnea, they think about someone snoring loudly. But sleep apnea is more than just snoring. In fact, you may never snore at all and still be diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a medical condition. It is a serious sleep breathing disorder characterized by involuntary breathing pauses while you’re asleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and mixed. The most prevalent condition is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a form of the condition that develops when the soft tissue of the throat and the throat muscles collapses to block the airway when you relax during sleep. Sleep apnea can affect both adults and children.
Depending on your sleep apnea’s severity, you may stop breathing anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of times a night — potentially for a minute or more!
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Common symptoms of the condition include:
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Feeling as if you had poor sleep, despite getting “enough” sleep
- Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
- Restlessness during sleep and difficulty staying asleep
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Sudden awakenings with a sensation of gasping or choking
- Headaches or migraines, particularly in the morning
- Loud snoring
- Waking up with a very sore throat or dry throat
- Difficulty losing weight or unexplained weight gain
According to the American Heart Association, 20 percent of American adults have sleep apnea, and many are undiagnosed and untreated. This is because most people living with sleep apnea are entirely unaware of the interruptions in their breathing because they don’t fully wake up when it happens. Just because someone is of normal weight and are unaware of any symptoms doesn’t mean they’re in the clear. Anyone could be suffering from sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing.
However, just because you don’t know it’s happening doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. Untreated sleep apnea is very serious, no matter how mild your case is. This is because when you stop breathing, your blood oxygen levels dip, and the body goes into distress. When this happens, your organs and tissues malfunction, and other serious health conditions occur, including:
- High blood pressure. Sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure because when your body goes into distress, stress hormones are produced. If you are living with high blood pressure already, the sleep breathing disorder can make your condition worse.
- Heart attack. Sleep apnea is a risk factor for heart attacks. People with untreated sleep apnea are at a greater risk of suffering a heart attack — up to 30 percent more — than people without the sleep disorder.
So why does sleep apnea contribute to an increased risk of heart attack? One theory is that low blood oxygen levels can contribute to the heart having to work harder. Another theory is that since obstructive sleep apnea makes taking in oxygen difficult, the brain has issues controlling blood flow, leading to a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems such as stroke or atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes a fast or fluttering heartbeat.
Researchers from the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimate that obstructive sleep apnea contributes to about 38,000 cardiovascular deaths each year.
- Type 2 diabetes. People living with the sleep breathing disorder obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of diabetes. Some researchers estimate that 80 percent of individuals living with type 2 diabetes have OSA.
One reason is that when you have sleep apnea, your body never reaches the level of sleep in which hormones are controlled, so the body cannot effectively process insulin to control blood sugar, which increases insulin resistance. Another contributing factor to type 2 diabetes is obesity, which can also contribute to a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
- Obesity/Being Overweight. Being obese or overweight is a risk factor for developing sleep apnea. It can increase your chances of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and heart attack, but it can also increase your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. When you are overweight, you often have extra fat and excess tissue on the neck, which can block breathing when you sleep. Additionally, having sleep apnea can cause a production of excess ghrelin, the hormone that makes you want sugary foods and carbs.
- Car Accidents. When you don’t get restful sleep each night because of your sleep apnea, you often suffer from daytime fatigue. This means you have a greater chance of falling asleep behind the wheel. People with OSA have a five times greater risk of having a traffic accident than those without the condition.
Other effects of sleep apnea include depression, anxiety, acid reflux, loss of libido/impotence, short-term memory loss, respiratory system issues such as asthma, and cognitive impairment.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
While sleep apnea patients are at risk of these health conditions, there are effective ways to treat the condition. One treatment is the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which provides a steady stream of air to keep the airway open during sleep. While CPAP machines are a standard treatment for people with moderate to severe sleep apnea, many people living with the condition do not like or do not use their CPAP machines because the device can be loud and feel claustrophobic.
As the CPAP machine is not an effective treatment for everyone, Miami Designer Smiles offers patients an alternative to the CPAP machine that can improve sleep quality and overall health and give you back restorative sleep.
The first step in your sleep apnea treatment is a sleep study. This is a process to analyze your sleep to determine how many breathing interruptions you experience each night. Other tests or imaging can also reveal if there is a specific root cause for your sleep apnea or breathing interruptions, such as a nasal obstruction or chronic nasal congestion. We recommend everyone consider a sleep study.
Miami sleep apnea dentists Dr. Raul Garcia and Dr. Conchi Sanchez-Garcia offer various sleep apnea treatments, including oral appliance therapy. Worn only during sleep, oral appliances, also known as mandibular repositioning devices, fit similarly to orthodontic retainers and work by repositioning the jaw to a more forward position, which helps keep the upper airway open.
In recent years, sleep apnea treatment studies have shown that oral appliance therapy is a very effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep breathing disorders, as well as snoring.
Another obstructive sleep apnea treatment are tongue-retaining devices. These devices help to keep the tongue from falling back to block the airway while you sleep.
Why Choose Oral Appliance Therapy to Treat Sleep Apnea?
Oral appliance therapy is an excellent sleep apnea treatment option for individuals with mild sleep apnea because oral appliances are comfortable and easy to use. Oral appliance therapy like tongue-retaining devices and mandibular repositioning devices are also:
- Quiet — no loud noises like the CPAP!
- Portable — easy to take with you when traveling!
- Easy to care for — easy to clean, and no special tubing required!
How We Can Help
Did you know that dentists often identify sleep apnea in their patients? We also work closely with physicians to treat your snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. At your consultation, we will talk to you about the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, its side effects, the reasons for a sleep study and your treatment options.
Learn more by calling us today.
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