What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is characterized by abnormal breathing pauses (apneas) or shallow breathing during sleep. These apneas can happen because of a physical blockage to airflow, a lack of respiratory effort, or both.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
When you fall into a deep sleep, your tongue, soft palate, and throat tissues relax. For those with sleep apnea, the tongue, soft palate, and throat tissues actually over-relax, causing them to collapse into the back of the throat and block your airway. When the flow of oxygen is interrupted, the brain forces you to wake up to consciously resume breathing. These mini-episodes can occur hundreds of times a night.
How Do I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?
There are many symptoms of sleep apnea including:
- Trouble focusing
- Heavy snoring
- Headaches and migraines
- Restless sleep
- TMJ symptoms.
If you experience any of these symptoms you should undergo an assessment by a medical professional to receive a proper diagnosis.
If your dentist determines that you have symptoms of sleep apnea, you may be asked to have a sleep evaluation with a sleep specialist or may order an overnight sleep study to objectively evaluate for sleep apnea.
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Many people do not get enough sleep. A major cause of poor sleep is sleep apnea, which is when breathing stops and starts during sleep. Prolonged lack of sleep can lead to some major health problems like diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity.
Once you've been diagnosed by a medical professional, your dentists may be able to help you achieve a better night’s sleep with a variety of treatment options.
Oral appliances can help by positioning your lower jaw further forward to pull your tongue away from the throat and the soft palate, to open your airway. Lifestyle solutions, such as weight loss, exercise, and side-sleeping can also help you achieve better breathing and more restful sleep. Your dentist can help you find the right treatment option for you.
Why is it Important to Treat Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea prevents you from falling into the restorative deep sleep you need to recharge your brain and body. This can contribute to many medical disorders, and reduce the quality and longevity of your life.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and wellbeing.