What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for a few moments during sleep. When this happens people often wake suddenly, feeling like they have been choked or smothered. Two causes for these unpleasant experiences are a blocked air passageway or signaling issues with the brain. The first one is by far the most common reason for sleep apnea.
How Does It Occur?
Malformed pharyngeal tissue (“soft tonsils” or “soft palate”) is sometimes the cause of a blocked airway. If either of these issues are present, a person will repeatedly stop breathing throughout the night. While the patient is breathing, s/he will likely snore. Then the air passageway slowly becomes blocked. At this point, both breathing and snoring will stop. A person can go for as long as 25 seconds without breathing, at which point they may wake up feeling like they are choking.
The second and much rarer cause of sleep apnea is a brain signaling problem. The part of the brain controlling breathing malfunctions, and inhalations cease during sleep. This can be caused by stroke, exposure to high altitude, or use of certain medications. Whatever the reason behind apnea, it is imperative to treat before it causes additional health problems.
Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is a fairly straightforward process. Some of the most common symptoms are:
• Headaches in the morning
• Loud snoring
• Restless sleep
• More than 17 inches neck circumference
• Libido issues
Sleep apnea can lead to a host of health issues:
• Memory loss
• Mood swings
• High blood pressure
• Lack of concentration
One of the most effective ways to treat this problem is to use an oral appliance, designed to keep the passageways from closing during sleep. These devices are custom made for a patient, and should be comfortable and non-obtrusive. Apart from being easy to wear, they are compact and can fit in a small purse or medicine bag.
If you are concerned about your sleep patterns and breathing, your Guelph Dentist, Dr. Urszula Barrios, has years of experience addressing sleep apnea among patients. She has helped a number of clients get peaceful sleep and return to a healthy life. If you suffer from chronic sleep issues give our office a call and set up an appointment: (519) 767- 6453. Sweet Dreams!