Sleep Apnea is very prevalent in the U.S. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from different types of sleep apnea. In fact, 20% of adults have mild obstructive sleep apnea or OSA, and almost 7% suffer from severe OSA. And these are the figures for only those who have been diagnosed with this sleep disorder. There are millions of people who never find out that they have this condition. So what is this sleep condition, how does it affect your body, and what are the treatment possibilities?
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a severe sleep disorder that interrupts your breathing during sleep. If you suffer from this condition, you are going to have brief sessions during sleep when you stop breathing. So this condition has the potential to reduce the amount of oxygen that your body and brain gets. Despite its seriousness, this is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Body?
Sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing repetitively during your sleep. In some severe cases, such cessations in breathing can occur up to hundreds of times during a sleep. This can cause you to partially awake because the brain exits deeper sleep to restart breathing. The result is that your sleep quality decreases and a wide range of potential medical conditions can develop. Many people never find out that they are suffering from this condition.
Dangers of Sleep Apnea
OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) can prove to be a serious problem in the long-term. It can give rise to a wide range of medical conditions that can complicate your health. And many of these conditions can aggravate to become life-threatening.
These conditions include:
- High Blood Pressure: This condition can worsen existing high blood pressure. Since the condition can force you to wake up many times during sleep, it increases the stress on your mind and body. This can affect hormone production in the body, leading to different types of imbalances including changes in blood pressure levels. Since the oxygen level in the blood decreases, this can further aggravate the problem of high blood pressure.
- Heart Disease: Studies show that people suffering from sleep apnea have higher risks of developing heart disease. The stress caused by waking up too often and lower oxygen levels in the body can result in heart problems. It can also result in related conditions like atrial fibrillation and strokes. This sleep problem adversely affects the supply of oxygen to the body. This complicates how the brain controls blood flow in the arteries.
- Obesity: If you are already overweight, OSA can further worsen the condition, not to mention that it can make it even harder to lose weight. Besides, obesity itself can further deteriorate this sleeping problem. The accumulation of fat in the neck area can affect your breathing during sleep. It has also been found that this condition can further release a hormone known as ghrelin that can increase your cravings for carbohydrates. So the combined result can be disastrous for overweight people.
- Diabetes: If you are suffering from sleep apnea, you are more likely to develop Type II diabetes. If you are overweight and suffer from the sleep condition, you are at an even higher risk of developing diabetes. So even if diabetes may not be directly linked to the sleep disorder, other related conditions can cause it. However, lack of proper sleep due to the condition can actually interfere with the body’s use of insulin and thus increase the potential risks.
- Motor vehicle accidents. Daytime tiredness may cause you to node off when driving. This can be fateful for many.
OSA has also been linked to increasing the risks of asthma in adults, acid reflux, and several other conditions.
Signs you have a Sleep Disorder
As already mentioned, many people who are already suffering from sleep apnea may never know that they have this condition. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor to determine whether you have this sleep disorder or not.
- Always Feeling Tired: When you are unable to breathe properly at night, the quality of sleep gets affected. This means that you get only lighter stage of sleep and not the deeper level of sleep that involves Rapid Eye Movement (REM). REM is the high-quality sleep that helps your mind and body to relax. When you spend lesser time in deep sleep, you always tend to feel tired during the daytime.
- Trouble staying awake while driving, reading or watching TV. These are signs of not getting the restorative sleep that sleep apnea disrupts.
- Snoring: Most people who snore never know that they do so. If your partner begins to complain that you snore excessively during sleep, you should get a checkup for OSA. Snoring causes limited blockage of air floor through the airways. It is a common symptom of the sleep disorder, but it doesn’t mean that everyone who snores suffers from it, but many do.
- Being overweight: If you are overweight and are unable to lose weight, you should go see a doctor to find out if you have sleep apnea. The excess buildup of fatty tissues around the throat can be the underlying cause.
- Often waking up from sleep: If you often wake up from sleep, panting for breath, it is highly likely that you are suffering from this sleep disorder.
- Your dentist might observe white line ridges on the inside of your cheeks or scalloping ridges on the sides of your tongue. These are highly correlated with sleep apnea.
If you constantly feel irritated, have difficulty in concentrating, and have an increased appetite, these could also be signs that you have OSA.
If you are suffering from sleep apnea, your doctor can recommend a treatment based on the underlying condition. Some of the potential treatments for addressing this disorder are as follows:
- Weight Loss: Almost 7 in 10 people suffering from the problem are overweight or obese. If you belong to this group, your medical practitioner is going to recommend you to lose weight to improve the condition. Most doctors claim that losing weight can have a significant positive impact on OSA and snoring.
- Surgery: Depending on the condition, your doctor may recommend surgery for clearing any blockages in the airway. In fact, surgery is not exactly a direct treatment for OSA, but for snoring. Surgery may be suggested along with other treatment options.
- Oral Appliances: Oral appliances are gaining more and more popularity as treatment options for sleep apnea. In fact, there are dozens of oral appliances that have been approved by the FDA for treating OSA and snoring. Such appliances keep the airway open to allow unobstructed breathing during sleep. They also protect the teeth from harmful nighttime teeth grinding that frequently occurs with sleep apnea.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). To keep the airway open, CPAP uses small amounts of air pressure.
Read more about at the Mayo Clinic website.
If you or your spouse is having difficult time sleeping, especially if either or both of you have witnessed snoring, you should see a qualified dentist to determine whether you are suffering from this sleep disorder. Contact Smiles At France today at 612.824.7033, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set an appointment or for information.