Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. These interruptions are frequently described as “jolting awake, gasping for breath” during the night. The muscles of the soft palate at the base of the tongue relax and sag, obstructing the airway and making breathing laboured and noisy. When the airway collapses, breathing is completely blocked (sometimes for up to ten seconds) and a listener hears snoring broken by silent pauses. Pressure to breathe builds and sleep is temporarily interrupted for a few seconds and there is a deep gasp as breathing restarts. The sleeper awakens with each gasp but so briefly they may not remember it. This may recur dozens or hundreds of times a night. Each time breathing stops, oxygen in the blood drops and the heart must work harder to circulate the blood. Blood pressure rises and may eventually remain elevated. The heart may beat irregularly may even pause for a few seconds.
Obstructive sleep apnea puts you at risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, diabetes and early death. Your memory and concentration can worsen. You are at much higher risk of causing a motor vehicle crash. Sleep apnea is common; it is dangerous, it is easily recognized and it is treatable. Risk factors include genetics, increasing age, obesity, upper airway anatomy, gender, alcohol or substance abuse and smoking.
Snoring is often the first and most obvious sign of sleep apnea. Many younger people who are currently only snoring will develop obstructive sleep apnea as they age. Children can also be at risk; 1-4% of children suffer from sleep apnea, many between the ages of 2-8 years. And 25% of ADHD children have sleep apnea.
There are various treatments for obstructive sleep apnea available. One treatment called a CPAP machine, involves a device that uses positive pressure to keep the airway open while you sleep. Another option is a mouthpiece to reposition the lower jaw forward during sleep (Mandibular Repositioning Device) thus opening the airway. In some cases, surgery may be an option.
Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking, frequent nocturnal urination, awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headache, difficulty concentrating during the day, mood changes such as depression or irritability, high blood pressure, obesity, large neck size, night sweating, gastroesophageal reflux (GE reflux) and decreased libido.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that requires evaluation by a physician trained in sleep disorders. Treatment with a Mandibular Repositioning Device is accomplished by a trained dentist in conjunction with the physician.
4 Screening Questions for Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
-do you snore loudly?
-do you often feel tired, fatigued or sleepy during the day?
-has anyone observed you stop breathing during your sleep?
-do you have or are you being treated for high blood pressure?
Any 2 or more = high risk
Other common issues associated with high risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
-do you sweat excessively during the night?
-does your heart pound or beat irregularly during the night?
-do you get morning headaches?
-are you overweight?
-have you jolted awake gasping for breath during the night?
These issues are often resolved by sleep apnea treatment!