Did you know that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of sleep apnea, may affect up to 9% of all adults? It’s likely that you know someone who experiences or will experience sleep apnea (if you’re not that person yourself).
Sleep apnea can be debilitating, and in some cases, deadly. But what is sleep apnea? What are common sleep apnea symptoms and causes? How can you treat it?
We’re here to talk about it. Read on to learn all about sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
When someone has sleep apnea, it means that they experience an abnormal breathing pattern while they’re sleeping. They have “lapses” in their breathing pattern, meaning that they go for extended periods of time without oxygen.
Sleep apnea isn’t always serious, but it does always impact a person’s sleep quality. Long-term, it could cause serious health problems if they don’t get it evaluated by a medical professional.
Sleep apnea comes in three main varieties: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It happens when there’s a physical blockage in the back of the throat that causes breath lapses.
Central sleep apnea has to do with the brain. The brain doesn’t control muscles correctly which results in shallow breathing.
Mixed sleep apnea means that the patient has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
When most people discuss sleep apnea, they’re referring to obstructive sleep apnea (and it’s what we’ll be discussing throughout this article).
Sleep Apnea Causes and Risk Factors
So why do some people get sleep apnea? Is there anything that you can do to prevent it?
For many people, the problem is genetic. There may be anatomical differences that made someone more likely to develop sleep apnea. Even the placement of someone’s tonsils or tongue can cause them to develop sleep apnea.
People with a family history of sleep apnea are more likely to develop it themselves. Hormonal conditions, such as hypothyroidism, may also cause someone to develop sleep apnea.
Men are more likely than women to have sleep apnea.
There are also a few lifestyle factors that go into whether or not someone will experience sleep apnea. Drinking alcohol or using sedatives before bed can cause sleep apnea, as can obesity and smoking cigarettes. Even sleeping on your back can trigger sleep apnea (or make it worse).
Many people don’t start to notice sleep apnea symptoms until they’re older, but some children experience sleep apnea.
Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms
So how would you know if you or a loved one had sleep apnea? There are a few common symptoms that you can look out for. Keep in mind that not all of these symptoms, when they stand alone, are sure signs that someone has sleep apnea, but when you notice several of them at once, it’s time to talk to a doctor.
If you see someone with sleep apnea sleeping, you might notice that their breathing pattern is noticeably irregular. Their breathing may seem shallow or it may even stop for up to a minute at a time.
It’s also common for people with sleep apnea to snore and get up frequently at night to use the restroom. They may also wake up with a dry mouth.
Less noticeable symptoms of sleep apnea include basic symptoms of sleeplessness. People with sleep apnea often wake up not feeling rested, even if they had a full night’s sleep.
They may struggle with fatigue and brain fog during the day, quickly losing focus on tasks. They may feel the need to take naps to keep themselves going or consume excess caffeine.
Talk to a healthcare professional if you notice these symptoms of sleep apnea.
Risks of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause sleep deprivation, even in mild cases. If someone isn’t getting enough restful sleep, they may struggle with cognitive function and they’ll be putting themself more at risk for accidents. They may also start to experience a decline in health as a result of over-exhaustion.
In more serious cases, the lack of oxygen in the blood can lead to future cardiovascular problems. Someone with sleep apnea may develop heart disease or high blood pressure as a result.
Sleep Apnea Treatment and Management
There are several common ways to treat and manage sleep apnea.
Once you’ve received a sleep apnea diagnosis, you should make some lifestyle changes. They may not get rid of sleep apnea entirely, but they can help minimize symptoms.
While most people should sleep on their backs for optimal health, people with sleep apnea should consider sleeping on their sides. This may help open up their airways.
Limiting smoking and alcohol usage may help minimize the symptoms of sleep apnea, if not get rid of them altogether. People with sleep apnea should also eat a balanced diet and manage their weight.
Some people with sleep apnea choose to get a CPAP machine. This machine sends a constant stream of air through a mask while the patient sleeps.
Others prefer dental devices either in conjunction with or as an alternative to a CPAP machine. A dentist can prescribe a dental device that fits into the patient’s mouth comfortably and adjusts it so there are no airway obstructions.
Sleep Apnea Is Treatable
If you or a loved one has sleep apnea, it might be time to start seeking out treatment options. When left unchecked, sleep apnea can lead to chronic exhaustion and serious cardiovascular health problems.
If you’re ready to start managing your sleep apnea, Newbury Dental Group is here for you. We serve patients in Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks, Brentwood, and the overall Los Angeles area.
Contact us to set up an appointment today.