At its most basic level, sleep apnea is characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. The symptoms, causes, and effects of this serious sleep disorder as well as the best course of treatment may vary between patients. Whatever your circumstances are, our experts at Lincoln Smiles can help.
What Are the Types, Causes, and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the throat muscles that control the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, tongue, and sides of the throat relax. This causes narrowing of your airway, making it difficult to get enough air. Your brain wakes you very briefly to reopen the airway, but it is usually so quick that most patients don’t even remember it.
Another type, called central sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles that control your breathing do not receive the correct signals to breathe from your brain. Some patients experience a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Really, anyone can be affected by sleep apnea, but such factors as obesity, family history, and age are significant. Enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or tongue can also cause sleep apnea, as these things can block the airway. Another common cause of sleep apnea is a narrowed airway, which may or may not have something to do with a thick neck circumference.
Those who heavily use alcohol or sedatives, those who smoke, and those with nasal congestion caused by a deviated septum, allergies, or other sinus problems are also at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea.
Common sleep apnea symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air or stopping breathing while sleeping, and a dry mouth or sore or dry throat when waking up. Some patients experience insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy, and trouble paying attention when awake as well as irritability, forgetfulness, and unexplained changes in mood.
If sleep apnea goes untreated, the risk of certain other health conditions increases. Issues like high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, headaches, and depression can occur. It can also lead to problems with the heart, like heart failure, heart attack, or irregular heartbeat.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
If you are thought to have sleep apnea, you will likely be asked to undergo a sleep apnea test in which you will be monitored through various equipment. The exact tests performed will depend on your own personal needs.
If it is determined that you do in fact have sleep apnea, there are multiple treatment options available to help. CPAP, short for continuous positive airway pressure, is a machine that delivers a constant flow of air to your nose through a mask worn over your nose and mouth. This common treatment helps you breathe the way you should by helping to keep your airways open. Another sleep apnea treatment is oral appliance therapy, which uses specially designed dental devices to help keep your airway open. In some cases, surgery is an appropriate fix for sleep apnea.
Things you can do at home to help treat sleep apnea include weight loss, eliminating the use of sleeping pills, alcohol, and cigarettes, and changing sleep positions.
If you suffer from symptoms of sleep apnea, Lincoln Smiles can help. Call us at 916-543-8800 today to schedule a consultation with our friendly, professional staff.