Sleep apnea is a chronic breathing condition that requires long-term management. It decreases the amount of air a person takes in while they sleep, leading to multiple uncomfortable and potentially dangerous side effects.
The condition is fairly common, though many people don’t know they suffer from it. Here’s what you need to know about sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep apnea is a disorder where a person’s breathing pauses for periods ranging from a few seconds to minutes, with some people experiencing pauses 30 times or more an hour. In some cases, those suffering from sleep apnea just have shallow breathing, decreasing the amount of oxygen the person receives while sleeping.
Usually, obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a collapsing of the airway, allowing it to become blocked and restricting airflow. However, central sleep apnea, a less common form, occurs when the brain doesn’t properly signal the body to breathe, causing the person to stop breathing for short periods.
3 Signs You May Have Sleep Apnea
Loud and frequent snoring is one of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Based on how the airway becomes obstructed with sleep apnea, snoring is often a side effect, especially after a pause in breathing. However, those suffering from central sleep apnea may not snore.
Daytime tiredness is a frequent side effect since the breathing pauses lead to poor quality sleep, leaving you fatigued and sleepy the following day.
High blood pressure can also be caused by sleep apnea and may increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
Often, the person suffering from sleep apnea isn’t aware they have the condition since it occurs when they are sleeping. Typically, a family member is more likely to notice the loud snoring, one of the leading indicators of the condition.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
The most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea involves a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Patients wear a mask while they are sleeping that uses air pressure to keep the airway open, preventing the muscle collapse associated with sleep apnea.
However, those with mild to moderate symptoms may be well treated with a dental device, such as the EMA (elastic mandibular advancement) designed to help keep the lower jaw in a more favorable position. These options may be more comfortable than a CPAP machine, making it easier to acclimate to the change.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, your Dallas dentist can help you evaluate your options and determine whether a dental device could work for you.