Sleep Apnea: What Is It Exactly?

Sleep Apnea: What Is It Exactly?

If you have experienced constant snoring it may be the sign of something more prevalent than you realize. Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder that many just mistake for chronic snoring, however, it is far more threatening. With this disorder, breathing actually stops and restarts dozens of times or more per night. Sometimes the breathing stops for a mere couple of seconds, but other times it can be more serious like 30 seconds.

Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

Do you find that you are constantly tired during the day or have headaches often when waking up? This sleep disorder might be the cause of such problems. In fact, this disorder affects an estimated 22 million people nationwide.

Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

While there are different forms of sleep apnea the most common types share the same symptoms. This can make it difficult to decipher which form you suffer from. That being said, generally, the symptoms of either include:

  • Excessively loud snoring
  • Instances where breathing stops and starts—usually this is observed by a loved one
  • Gasping for air in your sleep
  • Cottonmouth when waking up
  • Waking up with headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime fatigue (Hypersomnia)
  • Lack of mental focus
  • Irritability


The Most Common Types Of Sleep Apnea

  • Obstructive (OSA)The most common form of the disorder, is caused by involuntary relaxation of the throat muscles.
  • CentralThis form originates in the brain as it fails to send the signals to your respiratory system to breathe.
  • Complex SyndromeThis form occurs when someone has a co-existing condition of both obstructive and central variations of this disorder. 

What Does Dentistry Have To Do With Sleep Apnea?

If you aren’t understanding what the connection between sleep apnea and dentistry is, don’t worry most people don’t. That is because there is really one major form of sleep apnea that is treatable through dentistry—Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Let’s take a more in-depth look at this form of this common disorder.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Explained

OSA occurs when the muscles located towards the back of your throat relax too much. These muscles are responsible for the support of the soft palate, the uvula, tonsils, sidewalls, and the tongue. When those muscles relax too much your airway narrows significantly, restricting airflow.

This restriction of airflow means you are being deprived of oxygen lowering your blood oxygen levels.  When your brain senses that your unable to breathe and oxygen is low, it alerts you by waking you up.  However, the awakening is so brief that you could wake up 20 times a night and not remember it.

This is why many people who suffer from this condition get little quality sleep but often don’t realize it. They just assume they are randomly tired or not going to bed early enough. You could say that OSA is well-documented but not well-known.

Risk Factors For Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Factors that increase the chances of this form of sleep apnea include:

  • ObesityObesity significantly increases the risk of developing sleep apnea. This is because fat deposits can accumulate around your airway which obstructs breathing when you sleep.
  • Neck WidthNot always the case, but people with wider necks often have narrowed airways.
  • GeneticsYou don’t have to have a wide neck to have a narrow airway. Some people are born with a narrowed airway, it’s just genetics. Add in tonsils and you have a potential for significant air blockage.
  • Gender Men, statistically speaking are anywhere from two to three times at risk to have sleep apnea than women. Women can, however, increase those risks with obesity and menopause.
  • AgeAdults over forty are more likely to develop OSA than younger adults and teens who are normal weight.
  • Family historyKind of ties into genetics in that significant history of sleep apnea in your family heightens your risk.
  • Alcohol or Sedative Usage These two substances in particular, greatly relax muscles in the throat.
  • SmokingSmokers, regardless of overall health greatly increase their risks. Smoking creates a significant amount of inflammation in the throat as well as excess mucus production in the upper airway.
  • Nasal congestionDo you suffer from allergies or have another condition that limits breathing through your nose? Regardless of the source of the trouble, you’re at greater risk of developing sleep apnea.  Complications

Complications Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that many people, due to lack of knowledge, dismiss it as a minor inconvenience. What they fail to realize is that sleep apnea affects breathing which severely impacts blood oxygen levels. If those levels drop too low, you risk many complications, some of which can be fatal.

Complications that can arise from OSA can include:

Daytime Fatigue

The repetitive awakening that results from sleep apnea makes it impossible to get into restorative sleep states. This results in excessive levels of daytime drowsiness and elevated irritability. This can cause problems with co-workers, spouses, children and even impair judgment and cognitive thinking.

For example, you could find yourself nodding off at work, struggling to remember basic math principles or other simple tasks.  In fact, it is well-documented that over 20% of auto accidents are due to fatigue on the road. That can even come into play in workplaces where dangerous environments exist such as factories and warehouses.

Your increased fatigue might also leave you with a short temper, instability in your mood, or even depressed. For example, children or teens with sleep apnea often develop behavioral, social and scholastic difficulties.

Sleep Apnea Initiated Cardiovascular Issues

Sleep apnea causes sudden and often dangerous drops in blood oxygen levels that put a strain on your cardiovascular system. OSA also increases your risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension).

Because of the strain on your cardiovascular system, sleep apnea might even increase your chances of other heart problems. Cardiac arrest, atrial fibrillation, and stroke are just a few of the known issues arising from sleep apnea.

It should also be noted that multiple occurrences of low oxygen levels can lead to instant and sudden death without warning. Sleep apnea is definitely nothing minor and should be treated as a life-threatening condition that it is.

Type 2 Diabetes

Sleep apnea has also been proven to greatly increase one’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes then adds a whole host of complications on its own that can shorten your life such as:

  • Kidney Failure
  • Loss of Vision
  • Neuropathy
  • Hearing Damage
  • Weakened Immune System

Metabolic Syndrome

This is a disorder that includes a host of metabolic issues such as hypertension, elevated cholesterol, glucose spikes and more. Having this syndrome increases the chances of heart disease and obesity. Metabolic syndrome usually is followed by secondary medical issues that it causes. These issues combined can significantly decrease your quality of life or life expectancy.

Complications With Medication And Surgical Procedures

OSA can even cause issues with medical activities designed to help you. Certain medications, for example, might trigger your OSA and make breathing even more difficult. When getting surgery that requires anesthesia, there is great concern with patients who suffer from OSA. This is because they are more likely to struggle with breathing while unconscious on their back.

How Can Your Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?

Maybe you have seen some treatments for this disorder that look cumbersome and awkward such as a CPAP. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is often prescribed for severe cases of OSA. However, many patients cannot tolerate the mechanics and discomfort of a CPAP. Additionally, some OSA cases don’t require such a drastic procedure and a solution can be had right here at Kinard Dental.

One of the dental treatments we use to resolve OSA is a plastic oral device that keeps breathing passages open. This device is minimally invasive and is far more practical than a bulky and uncomfortable CPAP. After a consultation, we will customize an oral device for you that works based on your specific situation.

You Can Breathe Again With Kinard Dental

If you want relief from your moderate to severe OSA, just make an appointment for a consultation. We can get your case diagnosed properly and find the best solution for you, just contact us today.




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