Sleep does more than simply rest the brain. It also gives the body sufficient time to heal and repair itself. When you do not receive quality sleep on a consistent basis, your health can suffer in a tangible way. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing ceases for several seconds at a time, resulting in a significant lack of oxygen to the brain. This not only leads to fatigue, it can also result in serious health-related issues, such as heart disease, stroke, and more. At National Dental, our sleep medicine experts can work with you to diagnose and treat your sleep apnea so you can enjoy an enhanced quality of life.
Defining Sleep Apnea
As aforementioned, sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not obtain adequate oxygen during the sleep cycle. But what causes this in the first place? There are two primary categories of sleep apnea. The most common form of the disorder, obstructive sleep apnea is triggered when the muscles in the throat become too relaxed. As a result, the tissues collapse over the windpipe and obstruct the airway. In contrast, central sleep apnea is caused by a lack of communication between the brain and the muscles responsible for breathing. Both forms of this disorder can lead to serious consequences if left untreated.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
While sleep apnea may be obvious in some individuals, it may be less apparent in others. That is why understanding the signs and symptoms are so important. For example, you may suffer from sleep apnea if:
- Your partner notices loud snoring, gasping, or episodes of breathing cessation
- You are constantly tired, no matter how early you go to bed
- You wake in the middle of the night gasping for air
- Others notice mood changes
- You feel irritable
- You have chronic headaches
- You often wake up with a sore throat or hoarseness
- You cannot concentrate
Recognizing Risk Factors
There is not a single or specific cause for sleep apnea. However, there are a variety of risk factors associated with the condition. For example, men are twice as likely to develop sleep apnea. The condition is also more common the older you are. In addition to these factors, you may have a higher risk for sleep apnea if you:
- Are overweight
- Have a larger than average neck
- Have enlarged soft tissues near the airway
- Have a narrowed airway
- Have a family history of the disorder
- Smoke or drink alcohol
- Have nasal congestion or sinus issues
Diagnosis and Treatment
Oftentimes, the symptoms for obstructive sleep apnea can overlap with common symptoms of central sleep apnea or other types of sleep disorders. Therefore, a sleep study may be necessary to determine the exact cause of the condition. At National Dental Williston Park, our sleep medicine specialist can perform a series of tests for this reason. If it is established that you have obstructive sleep apnea, the most common treatment is the use of a custom oral appliance. These devices are made to fit your oral anatomy for maximum comfort. Intended to place the lower jaw in a more appropriate condition, an oral appliance can effectively open the airway, allowing sufficient oxygen flow.
Learn More about Oral Appliance Therapy
If you are interested in exploring oral appliance therapy as a way to eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms, schedule a consultation at our practice. Contact us online or call us at (516) 208-4276.