Sleep apnea is a common but potentially serious sleep disorder that can have long-ranging health consequences. It is characterized by the interruption of normal breathing during sleep, causing pauses in your breathing or very shallow breaths. While it may be mild enough that you do not notice the interruptions, even mild sleep apnea can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure if left untreated.
The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. In this type, the airway becomes physically blocked during sleep, causing an obstruction that prevents normal breathing. It appears to have a genetic component and tends to be common in people with a family history of it. However, environmental factors also play a role.
Physical factors such as obesity and poor muscle tone can cause or exacerbate sleep apnea. Smoking or inhaling other irritating chemicals can also cause it by irritating the throat and causing swelling. Alcohol and medications that act as muscle relaxants also exacerbate the condition.
The other type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, which happens when the brain does not regulate breathing properly. This is almost always died to other illnesses or certain medications and is not common.
Since most sleep apnea is mild enough that the person never fully awakens, the primary symptom for people who live alone is excessive tiredness during the day. For more severe cases, disturbed sleep can also happen.
If you live with someone else, however, another symptom can be quite noticeable. People suffering from obstructive sleep apnea usually snore loudly. The snoring is often accompanied by occasional snorting or sputtering, which happens when the airway opens again and normal breathing starts up.
Less noticeable symptoms of sleep apnea can include chronic sore throat in the mornings, frequent headaches, and forgetfulness or lack of focus due to sleep deprivation.
Many cases of sleep apnea probably go unrecognized because of the difficulty of diagnosing them. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, your doctor will order a sleep study, during which you will stay overnight at a medical center and the staff will monitor you. They will test for things like blood oxygen level and the airflow from your nose and mouth. The test results will be used to determine if you have sleep apnea.
Although most cases of sleep apnea cannot be cured, there are many ways to manage the condition. The first step is to remove as many environmental factors as possible. Losing weight and getting fit can help reduce the severity of the condition, as can avoiding alcohol, tobacco and sedatives as much as possible. If you do continue to drink alcohol, avoid it later in the evening. If you typically sleep on your back, try sleeping on your side or propping yourself up to at least a 30 degree angle, both of which can help prevent your airway from collapsing.
If environmental changes are not effective, the next step is to try an oral appliance. These devices look similar to athletic mouth guards but work by moving the jaw downwards, causing the airway to open as well. They are effective in the majority of cases. Although there are over-the-counter versions, personalized ones from a dentist are generally recommended. There are no x-rays or invasive procedures required. Instead, the dentist will take an impression of your teeth and create a custom mouthpiece that will protect your sensitive teeth while treating your sleep apnea.
If you have a more severe case, you may have to use a machine to help you breathe. The most common type is a CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It works by blowing a stream of air through a mask you wear over your nose and mouth. The pressure from the air keeps your airway relaxed and open, preventing collapse. The downside of these machines is that they can be noisy and many people find the mask uncomfortable, but they are very effective.
If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea in Jacksonville, Florida, contact Dr. James J. McCall for more information about sleep apnea oral appliances. Snoring due to sleep apnea is more than just an annoyance to your spouse, it’s scary. It can be a real health issue. People with sleep apnea have a 30% greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Dr. McCall can fit you with a custom-made Snore Guard designed to stop snoring and treat sleep apnea. After two impressions of your teeth are taken at the dentist office, the guard will eliminate your risk and help you sleep more soundly. Several patients have already had great results from the ‘stop snoring mouth piece’. For more information on payment plans and other available financial options, contact us here and get the care you need.