What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Everyone needs a good night’s sleep, but as many as 18 million Americans have a disorder that keeps them from sleeping restfully and prevents their nearby loved ones from sleeping as well. The disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, and you might have it without even knowing it. It’s normally characterized by snoring, but it’s effects can be much more serious than sawing logs at night.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when the muscles in the throat periodically relax during sleep. This blocks the airway and causes snoring and in some cases, pauses in breathing for as many as 20 or 40 seconds. These pauses are called “apneas,” meaning “without breath” in Greek.
The causes for obstructive sleep apnea vary. Most cases are believed to be caused by old age, brain injury, or decreased muscle tone. This can be triggered by drugs or alcohol or by neurological problems or other disorders. This causes the muscles to relax. These muscles support different parts of the mouth, including the soft palate, the uvula, the tonsils, and the tongue. This relaxation can lead to the airway closing, which lowers the level of oxygen in the blood. That in turn sends a signal to the brain to wake you up. This pattern can repeat 30 times or more in an hour.
Consequences of apnea can range from fatigue during the day to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, memory problems, impotence, and weight gain. It is commonly associated with type 2 diabetes, and it is more common in men who are overweight and older than 40. Many people live years without even realizing they have the disorder.
You will know you need to see a doctor if you experience severe symptoms, or if your partners notices these symptoms in you. Snoring loud enough to disturb your partner is the most common symptom, but occasionally apnea sufferers become so short of breath that it wakes them from their sleep. With apnea, snoring is usually loudest when one sleeps on his or her back, and it’s quietest while sleeping on the side.
Several treatment options are available once the disorder is diagnosed. Some people used a device when they sleep that keeps their airway open. Others use a mouthpieces to thrust the jaw open during sleep. Another, more drastic, option is to undergo a procedure than can change the shape of a patient’s nose, mouth, or throat.
Sleep apnea is a potentially debilitating disease that affects many people, but if you suffer from it, you are not without recourse.
For more information about apnea and treatment options in Santa Cruz, you can visit this website.
Ron has years of experience in the dental world. You can find his thoughts at: https://storify.com/teethsafetytips.
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