If you know someone who suffers from sleep apnea, then you know how scary it can be listening to them sleep and realizing that they just stopped breathing. The amount of time in between them stopping and starting to breathe again feels like an eternity.
Understanding what sleep apnea is and what the effective treatments are helps a great deal when trying to cope with the disorder. This is a condition that does not come up very often in the news, so you are probably not as familiar with it as you are with more high-profile disorders and conditions.
Sleep apnea, or at least the symptoms that make up the disorder, has been around for the better part of 1,500 years. According to ancient written accounts, the symptoms were present as far back as the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
Sleep apnea, in name, was born in the late 20th century. Before this it was known as a symptom of “Pickwickian syndrome,” which was named after the overweight character in The Pickwick Papers written by Charles Dickens.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where the person suffering from it stops breathing periodically during sleep. There are two types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – This is characterized by a blockage that stops the you from breathing. The blockage is usually from the soft tissue in the back of your throat sagging into your airway, making it impossible to breath. This is the most common type of sleep apnea. You might hear it called OSA for short.
Central Sleep Apnea – This is the less common of the two types, but it is the most alarming. This is where your brain fails to send the signal to keep you breathing. The reason for this is that there is an issue with the part of your brain that controls breathing.
Most people with sleep apnea also are afflicted with violent snoring. For those with obstructive sleep apnea, the cause of their snoring are the tissues blocking their airway and vibrating as a result. While the disorder is troubling for those who have it and those who know someone who has it, it also brings great risk of bodily harm.
A person with this disorder stops breathing multiple times per night. This decreases the amount of oxygen they take in and can lead to other, more serious medical issues.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
While we don’t know what absolutely causes the brain to stop sending the correct signals, nor do we know why some people have obstructions in their airway and others who have the same measurables do not, we do know the factors that contribute to the disorder.
Gender – Males are more highly susceptible to the disorder than women, according to research. 1 in 25 men have sleep apnea versus 1 in 50 women across the same age range.
Age – If you are over the age of 40, your chances of developing the disorder greatly increase, as opposed to people below that age.
Fitness level – Being overweight or obese contributes to the disorder as well.
Size of your neck, jaw, and throat – People with large necks and those who have larger than normal tonsils are at risk for sleep apnea. Also, people who have smaller jawbones are susceptible. This is because the material in the back of the throat becomes more prone to sagging in each of these instances.
Sinus issues – Snoring is a sign that something is already obstructing the flow of air into your body. This is caused by a variety of sinus issues including deviated septum and allergies.
How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea?
There are some common-sense ways to approach treatment of sleep apnea. A few of them are:
Losing weight – This is one method suggested for people who suffer from sleep apnea due to their weight. This is a conservative approach to addressing the disorder. Dr. Duffield offers nutritional counseling that helps promote good oral health care but may also help with this type condition.
Adjusting your sleep position – Some people only suffer from sleep apnea in certain sleeping positions. Adjusting your sleeping position may relieve you from the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – This is a device that provides constant pressure into your airway to keep it from becoming blocked. A mask is placed over your nose and mouth and a machine connected to it pumps air into your body to keep the airway clear. The pressure is constant, so no blockage can occur. This type of treatment is very common for people who have obstructive sleep apnea. It is also effective in some cases of central sleep apnea.
Dr. Duffield treats many of his sleep apnea patients with CPAP, although many are asking about alternative methods because they find the process a hassle. For this reason, Dr. Duffield also offers oral appliances worn during sleep. He is always looking at the latest research about sleep apnea to find any solutions that may be available for his patients.
Sleeping soundly can be achieved while dealing with this disorder. Learning how to manage sleep apnea and helping you treat its symptoms is something that Duffield Dentistry is able to do for you. Call our Royal Oak, MI office today at 248-721-4502 to learn more.