Everything you need to know about sleep apnea (and more!), courtesy of your holistic dentists in Nashua NH
The most common type of sleep apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), is itself common. It’s estimated one in five adults have at least mild symptoms of the condition characterized by partial and full airway obstruction during sleep. But the National Institutes of Health reports more than 85% of individuals with “clinically significant” OSA have never been diagnosed as such. Drs Randall Viola and Judith Whitcomb are happy to share everything you need to know about sleep apnea in Nashua, NH, given the far-reaching health and quality of life consequences for patients with undetected sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea, in three types
Apnea is derived from the Greek word “apnos,” which translates to “without breathing.” Apnea is a type of sleep disorder, as the condition affects your ability to get the quality rest needed to be your best. Those with the condition have episodes where they can’t breathe during sleep. Different types of apnea feature different causes and risk factors:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea – As the muscles and tissues that support the soft palate, tonsils, throat, and tongue relax, your airway becomes blocked. Your brain senses you can’t breathe, and briefly rouses you, so your airway can be reopened. These episodes are so brief that many people with OSA aren’t aware that they stop breathing in the night – occasionally, 30 or more times each hour. OSA sufferers tend to be older men with excess fat deposits around the upper airway. Smoking and alcohol and sedative use can also increase your risk of airway obstruction.
- Central Sleep Apnea – Less commonly, people develop this form of apnea caused by your brain’s inability to send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing when you relax. You, in turn, make no effort to breathe or breathe abnormally. You’ll awaken with shortness of breath, and you may find it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Like OSA, CSA tends to affect middle-aged and older men, but it is also more common among people with congestive heart failure, or who have had a stroke.
- Mixed or complex sleep apnea – As its name suggests, this form of apnea describes the presence of both OSA and CSA characteristics. In a 2006 Mayo Clinic study, researchers described the condition as affecting a “significant fraction” of patients diagnosed with severe OSA who failed to respond to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). Rather, their apnea indicated the presence of CSA, as if their brains weren’t issuing the command to “breathe” to the lungs. It’s also thought that some OSA patients may develop characteristics of CSA over time.
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Snoring is just one of many symptoms
Often, the symptoms of OSA and CSA overlap, which makes it difficult to determine what type of apnea you may have. Likewise, the symptoms are frequently innocuous; for example, snoring is caused by a narrowing of the airway as tissues in your throat relax. As the airway narrows, the speed of airflow increases. Tissues vibrate and produce that characteristic rattle or rumble. In around 50% of cases, snoring is secondary to conditions like Obstructive Sleep Apnea; specifically, apnea sufferers may have very loud, persistent snoring that also interferes with their partners’ ability to sleep soundly through the night, too. Partners and other family members who hear you snore may also notice that your snoring is interrupted by frequent gasps, grunts, and snorts. You may gasp or grunt as you abruptly wake up after not being able to breathe. If you have sleep apnea, you may also experience:
- Dry mouth
- Headaches, especially in the morning
- Daytime fatigue
- Poor concentration
As you might imagine, poor sleep can damage your waking life. You may be at risk of road accidents, and work or school performance suffers. Additionally, research funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute supports that untreated sleep apnea is associated with many severe health problems, including hypertension, diabetes, glaucoma, heart attack, and stroke.
Take back your life; see your dentist!
Apnea may be treated with dental solutions. Oral appliances designed to fit your mouth and needs gently reposition the jaw, throat tissues, and tongue, so your airway remains unimpeded and you and your loved ones can sleep soundly through the night. As an effective alternative to loud, bulky CPAP machines and masks, oral appliance therapy represents a portable, non-invasive, comfortable, and convenient treatment with a high rate of patient compliance. A member of organizations that celebrate the connection between the mouth and the rest of the body, such as the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health, Drs Viola and Whitcomb are also happy to discuss lifestyle factors that can improve symptoms of apnea, such as sleep posture, and nutrition to lose excess weight. Even modest weight loss can relieve throat constriction.