Sleep Apnea: Causes and Treatment Options

If you suffer from loud snoring and wake up multiple times throughout the night, you might have sleep apnea. This condition disrupts your life and makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Once your doctor gives you a diagnosis, you can visit Dental Excellence for treatment.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where you periodically stop breathing throughout the night. Since you don’t notice your own sleeping behaviors, many people don’t know that they have sleep apnea until their partner mentions loud snoring or gasping during the night. The symptoms of sleep apnea are similar to other disorders, making it harder to diagnose.

Still, sleep apnea can be dangerous, so talk to a doctor if you have suspicions. Your doctor could diagnose you with one of three types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea. During the night, muscles in the back of your throat collapse. This affects tissues throughout your mouth and throat, including the tonsils, tongue, throat and uvula. As the muscles collapse, your airway narrows, making it hard for oxygen to enter your body. This lowers the oxygen levels in your bloodstream. To compensate, your body jerks you awake so you breathe normally again.
  • Central sleep apnea. Instead of your muscles, central sleep apnea involves your brain. Your respiratory control center doesn’t tell your muscles to keep breathing during the night. Typically, this occurs in people with neurological issues like a recent stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome. This diagnosis means that you suffer from both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

If you have sleep apnea, you might notice the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Sweating at night
  • Fatigue during the day
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Frequently awakening during the night
  • Dry mouth when you wake up
  • Suddenly jerking awake and gasping for air
  • Irritability and forgetfulness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Sexual dysfunction

Additionally, a partner could report symptoms like these:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping
  • Sudden episodes where you stop breathing

Children with sleep apnea often exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Bedwetting
  • Mouth breathing during the day
  • Loss of energy
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Breathing issues
  • Low performance at school due to fatigue
  • Strange sleeping positions

What Are the Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

Certain factors and lifestyles make you more likely to develop each type of sleep apnea. The risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Genetics. Having a family history of sleep apnea or narrow throats makes you more likely to develop the condition.
  • Tonsils. Enlarged tonsils can cause sleep apnea, especially for children.
  • Age and gender. Males and older adults are more likely to develop sleep apnea.
  • Medication. If you take sedatives, they could relax your throat muscles and restrict breathing during the night.
  • Allergies and asthma. You may develop sleep apnea if you already have trouble breathing during the day.
  • Obesity. Excess fat around your airway makes it harder to breathe.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, and smoking inflames your airway and restricts breathing.
  • Medical conditions. A recent stroke, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and other issues make you more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea has fewer risk factors than obstructive sleep apnea. These factors include:

  • Health conditions. A recent stroke or congestive heart failure increases your risk of developing sleep apnea.
  • Age and gender. Like obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is more likely to occur in men and older adults.
  • Medication. If you take opioids, you’re more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

What Makes Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Sleep apnea won’t necessarily kill you, but it affects your health, lifespan and quality of life. When you suffer from insomnia or repeated awakenings, you feel tired during the day. You could fall asleep at work or school, accidentally injure yourself or get into a car accident because you fell asleep at the wheel. You’ll also feel irritable and have trouble concentrating.

During a sleep apnea episode, the oxygen levels in your blood suddenly drop. This puts stress on your cardiovascular system, leading to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and sudden death in extreme cases. Likewise, sleep apnea makes you more likely to develop metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

If you have major surgery, sleep apnea could cause breathing problems while you’re under anesthesia. Sleep apnea also increases your risk of complications with certain medications. Tell your doctor that you have sleep apnea before you start any kind of treatment.

How Do You Diagnose Sleep Apnea?

To start, your doctor will review your medical history. They’ll discuss health conditions, medications, treatments and family histories that point toward sleep apnea. Afterward, they’ll perform a physical exam to see if you have conditions like obesity or enlarged tonsils that increase your risk of developing sleep apnea.

To get definite answers, your doctor might recommend a sleep study. You’ll sleep at home or in a sleep center, then let experts review the results. They’ll examine your brain and heart activity and blood oxygen levels and watch out for disruptions that signify that you stopped breathing while you were asleep.

How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea?

For some, making lifestyle changes is enough to combat their sleep apnea. You might simply need to lose weight, quit smoking or get treatment for a condition that causes your sleep apnea. However, if you have a severe case, your doctor may recommend oral appliance therapy that keeps your throat open while you sleep.

For severe cases, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine attaches directly to your face with a mask. The machine sends air pressure into your airway to relieve the symptoms of sleep apnea. This eliminates loud snoring, which makes your partner more comfortable as well.

Reach Out Today

Schedule an appointment with Dental Excellence to discuss sleep apnea treatment. We can assist you with oral appliances and other treatment options. We’re currently accepting new and returning patients, so fill out the form on our website to request an appointment.