What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by abnormalities in breathing called 'apneas' that involve shallow breathing or pauses in your breathing altogether. These apneas may happen because of physical blockages, a lack of respiratory effort or a combination of the two.
What causes sleep apnea?
When falling into a deep sleep, your soft palate, tongue and throat tissues all relax. For those with sleep apnea, these tissues all over-relax, collapsing into the back of the throat and blocking the airway.
When the slow of oxygen stops because a person's breathing is halted, their brain forces them to wake up and consciously start breathing again. These mini-episodes can occur up to hundreds of times in one night.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
There are a number of symptoms of sleep apnea that can arise in patients, including heavy snoring, headaches migraines, fatigue, difficulty focusing, depression, TMJ symptoms and irritability. If you experience now or more of these symptoms without obvious cause, you should undergo an assessment by a medical professional to acquire a 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.
How can sleep apnea be treated?
Many people don't get enough sleep each night. And, a prolonged lack of sleep can contribute to major health issues like depression, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more. Sleep apnea can be a major cause of consistently poor sleep as the breathing stops and starts all night long.
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 a restorative deep sleep that you require to reset and recharge your brain and your body. This can contribute to a number of medical disorders over longer periods and affect the length and quality of your life.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and wellbeing.