Sleep apnea is a common but potentially serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep, causing the individual to stop breathing for brief periods of time. Unfortunately, this condition can have serious consequences without treatment.
Over time, your body undergoes significant strain. You can begin to develop issues with your heart, immune system, and other important body systems. Therefore, it is vital to seek treatment if you know or suspect that you have sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is the more common type and occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. This typically occurs due to the relaxation of muscles in the throat. CSA, on the other hand, occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect You?
One of the main side effects of sleep apnea is disrupted sleep. Individuals with sleep apnea may wake up frequently throughout the night, gasping for air or choking. Unfortunately, this can result in poor quality of sleep, daytime fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Over time, this can lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Another common side effect of sleep apnea is snoring. Loud and persistent snoring is a telltale sign of sleep apnea and can be disruptive to both the individual with sleep apnea and their bed partner.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences on an individual’s health and quality of life. It can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, and an increased risk of accidents, such as falls or car crashes, due to daytime sleepiness and poor concentration.
What Are Your Treatment Options?
Fortunately, there are several dental treatments available for sleep apnea. One of the most common treatments is the use of an oral appliance, also known as oral appliance therapy (OAT). This is a custom-made device you wear in the mouth during sleep to help keep the airway open. The device works by repositioning the lower jaw forward, which helps to prevent the muscles in the throat from collapsing and blocking the airway.
Another treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This involves wearing a mask over the nose and/or mouth during sleep, which delivers a continuous stream of air to keep the airway open. While CPAP therapy is often considered the gold standard for treating sleep apnea, many individuals find it uncomfortable or inconvenient to use.
In addition to dental treatments, lifestyle changes can also help to improve sleep apnea symptoms. This can include losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bed.
It is important to seek treatment for sleep apnea to prevent serious health problems and improve overall well-being.