Breathing is something that we do without thinking. When we go to sleep, we are right to expect that our breathing will continue just as it does throughout our waking hours. For millions of people, this expectation is not met. Something happens when the body relaxes in sleep to disrupt the vital function that maintains health.
This disruption has a name. It is a common sleep disorder called sleep apnea. There are a few variations of apnea, but the type that affects most people is obstructive sleep apnea. While any sleep apnea can be serious, obstructive sleep apnea gives those who are affected hope that their health can be improved by making a few simple changes.
What Happens if Sleep Apnea is not Treated
Sleep apnea of any kind is characterized by momentary lapses in breathing when one sleeps. In obstructive apnea, the problem is a physical blockage of the airway. Usually, that blockage is tissue around the throat or at the back of the mouth. When breathing is halted, the body undergoes a series of events to attempt to open the airway. First, the brain is deprived of oxygen. To restore breathing, the brain releases chemicals, including adrenaline. This rouses sleep to the point of breathing, but not to the point of waking fully.
This series of events can happen hundreds of times a night. As a result, several risks develop:
- High blood pressure
- Worsening of ADHD symptoms
- Heart palpitations, heart attack, heart failure
- Depression and anxiety
- Automobile and other accidents
Should you Talk with your Doctor?
Because there are similarities between sleep apnea and chronic snoring, a large percentage of diagnoses never happen. Snoring is only one indicator that a person may have sleep apnea. If loud, chronic snoring is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, a formal sleep study should be conducted.
- Snoring “stops and starts” several times a night.
- Choking or gasping sounds are also made.
- Daytime energy is persistently low.
- Sleep feels restless.
- Headaches or a sore throat frequently occur in the morning.
Should you Talk with your Dentist?
Typically, a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea will be met with a recommendation for CPAP therapy. This medical treatment maintains air flow during sleep by gently forcing air through the nasal and oral passageways. According to statistics, CPAP can be highly effective; and yet patient compliance tends to be low due to unpleasant side effects such as a feeling of claustrophobia and throat dryness. Patients of our Scottsdale dental office obtain their desired outcome with oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. To learn more about this CPAP alternative, call (480) 657-6981.