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.
What causes sleep apnea?
When you fall asleep, the tissues of your tongue, soft palate, and throat relax. The tongue, soft palate, and throat tissues over-relax in people who have sleep apnea, causing them to collapse into the back of the throat and block your airway. When the flow of oxygen ceases, the brain forces you to awaken to resume conscious breathing. These mini-episodes can occur hundreds of times throughout the night.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
There are several symptoms of sleep apnea including trouble focusing, heavy snoring, headaches and migraines, fatigue, restless sleep, depression, irritability, and 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.
How can sleep apnea be treated?
Many people do not get enough sleep. Prolonged lack of sleep can lead to some major health problems like diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity. A major cause of poor sleep is sleep apnea, which is when breathing stops and starts during sleep.
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 moving your lower jaw forward, pulling your tongue away from your throat and soft palate, and thus opening your airway. Weight loss, exercise, and side sleeping are all lifestyle solutions that can help you achieve better breathing and more restful sleep. Your dentist can assist you in determining the best treatment option for you.
Why is it important to treat sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea keeps you from getting the deep restorative sleep you need to recharge your brain and body. This can lead to a variety of medical problems and reduce the quality and length of your life.
By treating sleep apnea, your dentist can help you improve and protect your overall health and wellbeing.