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All About Sleep Apnea

From Detection to Prevention and Treatment

How many of you know that heavy snoring may be a symptom of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder that happens when your breathing is interrupted while you sleep which usually leads to choking sounds or loud snoring. This is when people who have sleep apnea tend to suffer from short breathing pauses which may vary from person to person. This indicates that your brain and the rest of your body is not getting enough oxygen.

Here are the 3 types of sleep apnea:
1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common type of apnea which occurs when your airway becomes blocked and the soft tissue at the back of your throat collapses on itself.

2. Central Sleep Apnea: This apnea occurs as your brain is unable to signal to your muscles that they should start breathing again which is due to instability in the respiratory control center.

3. Complex Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of both the central and obstructive sleep apneas.

Here are some symptoms of sleep apnea:
• Loud and prolonged snoring every night
• Gasping and snorting breaths while sleeping
• Pauses in breathing
• Waking up feeling short of breath
• Feel sleepy and fatigued during the day, regardless of how much you sleep
• Waking up at night with a sore throat and dry mouth
• Suffering from insomnia
• Difficulty concentrating
• Uncharacteristic mood swings
• Morning headaches
• Impotence

Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea Risk Factors and Who It Can Affect?

Sleep Apnea Affects:
• Predominantly obese males
• Being over the age of 40
• People who have large neck sizes
• Having a large tongue, small jawbone or large tonsils
• Having a genetic history of sleep apnea
• Nasal blockage due to allergies, sinus problems or a deviated septum

Untreated Sleep Apnea can Lead to:
• Depression
• Headaches
• Diabetes
• High Blood Pressure
• Heart Failure due to irregular heartbeats
• Strokes
• Worsening of ADHD
• Heart Disease

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea:
The diagnosis of your sleep apnea is based on your personal signs and symptoms after which your dentist can refer you to a sleep disorder center and a sleep specialist will help you decide on your need for further evaluation. Here are some tests involved in the diagnosis:
• Home Sleep Tests
• Nocturnal Polysomnography

Sleep Apnea Treatment:
If you suffer from a slight case of sleep apnea, your doctor will suggest making some changes to your lifestyle such as quitting smoking and losing weight. But if you have nasal allergies then your doctor may suggest that you treat your allergies first. If the above precautions don't improve your apnea then here are some other obstructive sleep apnea treatments:

• Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
If you suffer from mild to critical sleep apnea then you will benefit from a machine that carries air pressure to your nose through a mask which you wear before heading to bed.

• Other Airway Pressure Devices
If the CPAP is not working for you, then you can use a different type of airway pressure that automatically adjusts the pressure while you sleep.

• Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure
This device allows air to move in freely through a valve which is placed over each of your nostrils, but when you exhale, the air passes out through the tiny holes in the valve.

• Oral Appliances
Another option is to wear an oral appliance which is designed to keep your throat open while you sleep.

• Surgery
Surgery is usually an option after other treatments have failed. You should follow at least a three month trial of other treatment options before considering the following types of surgery:
o Tissue Removal
o Jaw Repositioning
o Dental Implants

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Reduce Your Sleep Apnea
1. Sleep apnea can disappear altogether by reducing your weight.

2. Work out regularly to reduce the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

3. Avoid consumption of alcohol and certain medicines.

4. Sleep on your side rather than your back as a solution.

5. Apply a saline nasal spray to keep your nasal passages open. Speak to your doctor before using any nasal decongestants or antihistamines though.

6. Quit Smoking

What Happens if You Leave Your Sleep Apnea Untreated?
Leaving your sleep apnea untreated is dangerous and can lead to an increasing number of health problems such as irregular heartbeats, depression, blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, diabetes, headaches and the worsening of ADHD. It is important that you visit your family dentist if the above symptoms are still present and seek out sleep apnea treatment to avoid any further health problems.


Grace Clark

A dental marketer at Michael G. Long DDS, Fresno, CA and a believer in holistic health, Grace lives by the rule that health and happiness go hand in hand. She writes on various dental topics focusing on healthy living and holistic health. When she’s not working or blogging, she enjoys spending her time with her family and volunteering at the local youth centers where she educates children about the importance of health and fitness.

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