Breathing Easy: Identifying the Common Signs and Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
What Is Sleep Apnea?
It is a sleep-related condition that is characterized by repeated pauses in regular breathing at night. The condition may also present shallow breaths during sleep. These pauses in breathing are involuntary and can last for several seconds or minutes. When they occur repeatedly and for prolonged minutes throughout the night, they lead to severe or chronic sleep apnea.
What Happens During an Apnea Episode?
During an apnea episode, you usually stop breathing for some time. The episodes may occur several times at night, leading to disrupted sleep and decreased oxygen levels in the body.
Technically, when your airway is blocked or obstructed, the body’s oxygen levels drop. At this, the brain senses the lack of oxygen and sends a signal to wake up and resume breathing. It is why you sometimes wake up with a gasp or choking sensation in the middle of your sleep.
The breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to a minute or longer. In severe cases, these episodes can occur many times within an hour. Therefore, people with sleep apnea may not be able to enter into the deeper stages of sleep necessary for restorative rest.
How to Know You Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most known symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include the following:
- Chronic snoring – evident by its loudness
- Frequently gasping for air when sleeping – it feels like you are repeatedly chocking as you sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness, even after a full night’s sleep
- Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and irritability
- Morning headaches
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
- Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
- Waking up frequently at night, often interrupted by pauses in breathing
- Restlessness, tossing, and turning during sleep
Risk Factors for Developing Sleep Apnea: Who is Most at Risk?
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most prevalent. Dentists in Frisco have identified the primary cause as a blockage or obstruction in the breathing airway. This obstruction can be due to several factors that culminate in the risk of sleep apnea. Some of those factors include:
- Neck circumference: Too much fat in the throat area cab narrow the airways. People with thick or fat necks have a high risk of developing sleep apnea.
- Obesity: Being overweight puts pressure on the breathing airway, making it more likely to obstruct sleep.
- Family history: Sleep apnea can sometimes be passed down genetically, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the disease.
- Age: Although sleep apnea can occur at any age, it becomes more common as people age.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop sleep apnea.
- Smoking: Tobacco products can cause inflammation and fluid retention in the airway, increasing the risk of obstruction during sleep.
- Alcohol and sedatives: These substances relax the throat muscles involuntarily, making it more likely that the airway will block during sleep.
- Medical conditions: Some terminal or chronic health complications like diabetes, high blood pressure, and various heart-related diseases, heighten the risk of sleep apnea.
- Anatomical factors: Having a narrow airway, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a deviated septum, or a large tongue are bodily factors that can heighten the likelihood of sleep apnea.
Treatment to Explore for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Early diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea are crucial to prevent complications such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes, depression, and underlying heart disorders. Some treatments available at Millennium Smiles are:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy: Sleep apnea appliances in Frisco are the most common treatments for sleep apnea. CPAP works when you wear a mask over your nose and/or mouth at night. The mask delivers an uninterrupted flow of air in your nasal cavity, keeping the airway open.
- Oral appliances – are custom-made devices for the mouth to reposition the jaw and tongue. Oral appliance therapy in Frisco, TX, benefits your health by opening the airway during sleep.
- Surgery: Some special cases of sleep apnea merit surgery to remove excess tissue from the throat, reposition the jaw, or address other anatomical abnormalities contributing to sleep apnea.
- Weight loss: Losing weight can reduce the severity of sleep apnea, especially in cases of obesity as a contributing factor.
- Lifestyle changes: You may have to abandon some habits like regularly taking alcohol and sedatives (especially before bedtime), smoking and other tobacco usage, and sleeping on your back.