Sleep apnea is a common but serious condition where you temporarily stop breathing while sleeping. Breathing stoppages can last a few seconds or for much longer—sometimes a minute or more. Signs of this disorder include loud snoring, waking up breathless in the middle of the night, and fatigue despite having a full night’s rest. If you’ve experienced these concerns, you may be one of about 12 million Americans with sleep apnea. Dr. Kenneth Banasiak and Dr. Roger Nettune, our experienced orthodontists, can evaluate your symptoms and help treat sleep apnea.
If you have additional questions about sleep apnea, contact us today. Our knowledgeable team members can provide additional information or help you schedule a complimentary consultation.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
The word “apnea” comes from the Greek for “without breath.” As mentioned above, this condition occurs when your breathing pauses or stops while you’re asleep. This can happen once or periodically throughout the night—sometimes as often as 20-30 times per hour. The lack of oxygen signals to your brain something is wrong, and it wakes you up to resume normal breathing. These moments of consciousness typically will be brief and you likely won’t remember them. However, they do prevent you from achieving a deep, restful sleep, which can lead to drowsiness, headaches, and other problems during the day.
What Are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?
There is a wide range of symptoms that are attributed to sleep apnea. If you experience any or a combination of the following, you should speak with one of our skilled orthodontists to see if you may be affected by this condition:
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Intense, loud snoring
- Waking up short of breath
- Headaches upon waking
- Extreme drowsiness during waking hours
- Producing snorting or choking noises at night
- Unintentional dozing during the day
Are There Different Types of Sleep Apnea?
In general, sleep apnea occurs as a result of one of two main factors. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In this case, the soft tissues of the throat collapse, causing a blockage of the airway and leading to paused breathing. There is also central sleep apnea (CSA), in which the muscles associated with breathing do not receive the normal signals from the brain telling them to work. In some instances, both causes may be present. This combination of influences is called mixed or complex sleep apnea.
What Are the Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?
While virtually anyone can develop sleep apnea, some individuals are at a greater risk. Men more commonly experience this concern than women, and adults over the age of 40 are also more disposed to the condition. Certain behaviors can also impact your likelihood of acquiring sleep apnea, including smoking, drinking, using sedatives or tranquilizers, and having high blood pressure. Obesity and family history can also play a role. Central sleep apnea (CSA), the less common type, often affects men more than women, as well as people who have or have had strokes, brain tumors, neuromuscular disorders, or heart disorders.
Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?
Some doctors believe that nearly everyone experiences at least one sleep apnea episode within their lifetime; however, chronic, recurring sleep apnea can be a very serious concern. If left untreated, this condition can lead to high blood pressure and may increase your risk for stroke, heart failure, and even death. Additionally, sleep apnea interferes with your ability to rest and refresh. As a result, you may not be able to perform your normal work or school duties as well, or you may have symptoms of depression or sexual dysfunction. Drowsiness while driving or operating heavy machinery can also be dangerous. Tell your doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea prior to receiving anesthesia or undergoing surgery.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Treatment options for sleep apnea come in many forms. One or more of these techniques may be recommended to optimize your results and to ensure you’re receiving the best care possible. Some of the most common approaches include behavioral changes, such as losing weight, stopping smoking, or sleeping on your side rather than your back. Other options include using a device that can reduce airway blockage from occurring. Rarely, surgery may be suggested in the event conservative methods are unsuccessful.
What Should I do if I Suspect that Someone in my Family Suffers from Sleep Apnea?
If you have noticed symptoms of sleep apnea in a loved one, you should contact us today. Our experienced orthodontists, Drs. Banasiak and Nettune, can refer you to a specialist in this field. This physician may advise the individual with the symptoms to attend a “sleep study,” which can lead to a diagnosis. The specialist will also develop a customized treatment plan that can help.
Sleep apnea should not be taken lying down. For more information on this condition, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our orthodontists, please contact us today.