Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing briefly over and over again as they sleep. These sleeping pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur as many as 30 times an hour. During an episode of apnea, your brain becomes starved of oxygen and your body is pulled out of natural deep sleep so that your airway can open and let air in. As a result you end up feeling drowsy and fatigued during waking hours. Your reflexes and concentration are also affected which can increase the risk of accidents.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This occurs due to partial blocking of the airway as a person is sleeping. Due to oxygen deprivation, the brain signals the body to awake partially in order to take a breath. A person may then wake up with a loud gasp, sigh or snort.
- Central Sleep Apnea: Here, the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing to stimulate air intake causing your breathing to stop and start repeatedly.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apneas.
Left untreated, oxygen deprivation and fragmented sleep caused by sleep apnea can result in hypertension, high blood pressure, weight gain, mood and memory problems and heart disease.
Snoring is often the first sign that there is an underlying problem. While some people snore on occasion with no cause for alarm, there are others who have a deadly condition that threatens their well being. More than 60% of those who snore have some form of sleep apnea. Maybe your snoring (or your significant other’s snoring) is nothing more that a condition that is irritating to others. The problem is, you can’t tell if you have Sleep Apnea without the help of a professional!
Many people avoid seeking help because they don’t want to wear a CPAP machine. The good news is that if you do have Obstructive Sleep Apnea and it is considered to be mild or mild to moderate, your physician will many times prescribe for you a mouth appliance to treat the condition.
Here are a few of the symptoms
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness. When you come home from work and sit down in your chair, do you often fall asleep? When you slow down for a few minutes, do you feel a bit drowsy? These symptoms can be a sign that your sleep is interrupted by Sleep Apnea.
- Your partner hears you gasping or holding your breath at night. The obstruction that causes someone to gasp triggers a response from the brain to come to a higher level of wakefulness in order to take a breath. You may not come completely awake but you will not be getting the restful sleep you need.
- High blood pressure.
- Increase resistance to insulin, which is associated with Diabetes.
- Problems with mental focus and attention. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that when you are tired your mind isn’t working as well as it could be. Remembering facts and names are more difficult when you are tired.
- Difficulty losing weight. Because the balances of the hormones that regulate appetite are affected by lack of sleep, you will find that you are more hungry and drawn towards eating carbohydrates when you suffer from lack of sleep. Good sleep helps you have more resistance to bad eating habits.
- Headaches. Morning headache is a common side effect of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Lack of motivation. It is hard to be excited about life when you are tired. Of course we expect that as we age we will slow down, but it is nice to know if fatigue is due to a treatable condition like Sleep Apnea.
Here are five reasons you should seek help if you suspect you have Sleep Apnea
- It’s Life Threatening: This condition is serious because it blocks a person’s airway. A restricted airway causes the person to stop breathing many times during their sleep. Many people have died as a result. Although the brain has mechanisms in place to wake us up, it is possible that if the oxygen levels in the blood get too low, this mechanism is ineffective.
- Children Also Suffer: Many people think depression is a problem that only affects adults. Children, who present with ADHD, bed-wetting, and stunted growth, may also have sleep apnea. Many times, the sleep apnea that affects children is a direct result of enlarged tonsils. By removing tonsils, parents have seen immediate reversal of bed-wetting and attention problems in school, such as ADHD.
- It Causes Cardiovascular Disease: During periods of apnea, the heart does not get proper oxygen. It can cause heart attacks, high blood pressure, and even a stroke. The repeated effects of holding your breath at night is very stressful to the heart and can double your chances of sudden cardiac death.
- Many Go Undiagnosed: 1 in 5 Americans suffers from this condition. They can stop breathing anywhere from 5-30 times per hour. If excessive snoring is a problem, it is time Sheridan Dental evaluates the situation. We are trained to screen for Obstructive Sleep Apnea and can help you make an appointment with the correct professional to help you diagnose if there is a problem.
- Obesity is Often To Blame: Having excessive weight in the body can cause the neck and chest to collapse in on the throat when lying down. A blocked airway causes a person to stop breathing. We have a simple test to check if you fall into a category that is at risk. If you are at risk, we will point you in the best direction to get help if needed.
The most important thing to remember is not to ignore the signs and have a professional evaluate your sleep for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
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I’ll never forget Paula, ( not her real name). She was an average-looking woman in her late 30s when she visited my practice for the first time.