Sleep apnea is a life-threatening condition that affects millions of Americans, although as much as 80% of sufferers don’t know they have it. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops for several seconds at a time during your sleep. Your brain awakens partially to restore breathing, which means you don’t get the restorative rest your body and brain need. It can lead to many physical and mental health conditions, and as a result people with the condition are about five times more likely to die at any age.
This page can help you understand sleep apnea, but if you suspect you have it or have been diagnosed with it and are looking for treatment, please call (803) 781-9090 or email Smile Columbia Dentistry today for an appointment.
Understanding the Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops while you sleep. It can occur hundreds of times a night, and you may not be aware of it—your brain only wakes up just enough to restore breathing. There are two kinds: obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your airway collapses at night when you lie down and your muscles relax and is commonly associated with snoring. Central sleep apnea occurs when your sleeping brain stops telling your body to breathe. It is possible to have both types, but obstructive is by far the most common.
Every time your brain awakens to restore breathing, your sleep is interrupted. Your brain is never able to reach the restorative levels of sleep such as REM sleep. You may spend hours in bed, but you are not getting any rest. And every time your breathing stops, your heart responds by pumping harder, trying to get oxygen to the areas that are signaling they don’t have any.
Sleep apnea is associated with:
Mental conditions like depression and other mood disorders, lack of concentration leading to car accidents and other dangerous lapses
Cardiovascular conditions like coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, erratic heartbeat, heart attack, and stroke
For these reasons, it is important for people who suspect or know they have a problem to get treatment as soon as possible.
Here are some signs to watch out for:
Awaking with a headache or a feeling that you got no rest
Lack of concentration
Depression or sudden mood changes
Lack of motivation
Snoring, especially if it ends in a choking sound
Frequent nighttime urination
If you experience some of these signs, it is important to be evaluated.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
There are many ways to treat sleep apnea that can reduce your risk of associated health conditions. The most commonly prescribed treatment is CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP is a pump and mask that forces air into your throat to keep your airway open. This can be a successful treatment, but many people find it uncomfortable and do not use it as recommended to get the health benefit.
Another approved treatment is oral appliance therapy. An oral appliance is a mouthpiece you wear during sleep that positions your jaw so that it can better support your airways to avoid collapse at night. Oral appliance therapy is FDA-approved for mild to moderate sleep apnea treatment and covered by most health insurance.
We can also recommend lifestyle changes that can improve the success of your treatment.