Understanding Sleep Apnea

sleep apnea

Do You Suspect You Have Sleep Apnea?

Have you been awoken abruptly from sleep gasping for air, or maybe you feel tired in the morning as if you haven’t slept? Perhaps your spouse has informed you of your loud snoring. If you have experienced any of these problems, it may have made you suspect you have this condition. These are all telltale signs, but far from the only signs. If you want to be confident you don’t have sleep apnea, you need to be checked by a physician.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a dysfunction that hinders normal breathing as you sleep, causing your body to take in less oxygen and produces a feeling of being fatigued the next day. The most frequent cause is an obstructed airway, known as obstructive sleep apnea.  Obstructive sleep apnea happens when a sufferer’s tongue and jaw are completely relaxed at the same time as other muscles in the body. This state occurs when you fall into a deep sleep. Usually, while in a deep sleep airways will stay open, even with all the muscles in the airway completely relaxed. It is different for someone suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, when their airway muscles relax, the back of their throat becomes cut off, which in turn disrupts their breathing. When a person stops breathing, their brain becomes alarmed and sends a signal which makes them wake up. The intensity of the signal differs with each person; at times, they will be thrust sharply into consciousness by their brain, and at sometimes, they will stay asleep, not knowing their breathing stopped momentarily. In both cases, this condition hinders healthy sleep and ultimately will cause problems with a person’s immune system from lack of sleep.

What Are Additional Problems?

Sleep apnea can bring a variety of health-related problems; here are just a few:

  • Waking Up Gasping for Air.
  • Snoring
  • Fatigue
  • Broken Sleep.
  • Sore Throat.
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Increased Risk of Stroke.
  • High Blood Pressure.

This condition can also turn deadly if it happens in a patient who has congestive heart failure, asthma, or other cardiac or respiratory-related problems.

Am I at Risk?

Yes, just about anyone can get sleep apnea, but some are at higher risk. People with a family history are likely to develop it. Even without a family history, being an overweight male over the age of 40 puts you in the highest risk group for developing this.  People with a deviated septum and underdeveloped jawbones also have an increased risk.

What is CPAP?

Fortunately, medical science has devised a way to deal with sleep apnea. The standard treatment  is the CPAP (constant positive air pressure) machine. The machine works by utilizing air pressure to push the tongue to the front of the mouth and by doing, so it clears the back of the throat from obstruction, clearing the airway. The CPAP device attaches to a nosepiece via a hose. Many can use CPAP effectively to reduce the effects of sleep apnea. For others, the nosepiece can be very irritating and cause broken sleep.

An Alternative to CPAP

All is not lost for those who suffer from sleep apnea and can’t use CPAP machines. In the field of dentistry, advances have been made in developing dental devices. There are various types of FDA approved oral appliances which can be used to control this condition. Mouthpieces are the most popular alternative to CPAP. These oral appliances move the jaw forward as you sleep. The mouthpieces inhibit sleep apnea in the upper airway by lessening air resistance and by expanding the upper airway. In some cases, where the CPAP works for a patient, but not well enough; a mouthpiece can be an effective enhancement.

If You Believe You Have Sleep Apnea

If you think you have sleep apnea see your physician confirm that you indeed have it. You will most likely be sent to do a sleep study to determine the severity and what course of treatment to follow.

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