Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. The condition disrupts a person's normal, healthy sleep cycle. As a result, sleep apnea can have a negative impact on a person's overall health. Sleep apnea is more common in adults. However, it can affect people of all ages. Sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone. There are three main types of sleep apnea: Central, obstructive, and mixed.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
When patients experience interrupted breathing while sleeping, it is referred to as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This occurs when soft tissues in the throat relax during sleep and block the airway. The blockage causes patients to snore loudly or stop breathing for short periods of time while they sleep. These interruptions in breathing can occur hundreds of times each night, thus impacting the patient's quality of sleep and quality of life.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive is the most common type and occurs when the airway is blocked; mixed refers to a condition in which both obstructive and central occur simultaneously; and central results when the part of the brain that regulates breathing does not function properly. Regardless of the type, all can result in insufficient oxygen supply to the brain and heart. This can cause fatigue, high blood pressure, and other chronic health issues if left untreated.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
How Can Sleep Apnea Affect Your Health?
Sleep apnea affects one's overall health in several ways and leads to the development of several health-related problems, such as:
- Heart attack
- Raised blood pressure
- Gastric reflux
- Heart failure
How Is Sleep Apnoea Treated?
If you suffer from sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend that you wear an oral appliance at night that slightly shifts your jaw forward to open your airway. This oral device keeps your airways open while you sleep and helps you breathe easier without snoring or waking up multiple times throughout the night. Here are some other treatment options for sleep apnea:
- CPAP therapy – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is the gold standard treatment for patients suffering from moderate to severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea. During the night, the patient wears a small mask over their nose and mouth that blows pressurized air into the throat to keep the airways open.
- Surgery – In severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea, surgery may be recommended. Surgical procedures can focus on removing excess tissue in the throat or correcting issues with the jawbones that may be contributing to the condition.
- Oral appliances – In addition to mouthpieces like the one described above, there are also a few other options available to treat mild forms of obstructive sleep apnea. These can include special pillows that prevent you from sleeping on your back and a chin strap that keeps your mouth from opening during sleep.
What Are The Different Types of Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type and occurs when a person's airway gets blocked during sleep. Central sleep apnea is less common but occurs when the brain fails to tell the body to breathe. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central issues.
With obstructive sleep apnea, the tongue can collapse into the airway, or excess tissue in the airway can cause it to be narrow enough to allow only minimal breathing. As oxygen levels in the body drop, the brain fails to send electrical signals to prompt the person to breathe more. The person wakes up briefly to resume normal breathing, but this can occur hundreds of times per night.
While central sleep apnea is rare than obstructive, it can still cause serious health complications if left untreated. The central nervous system fails to send signals that prompt the lungs to take in oxygen; this can be caused by poor overall sleep quality or certain physical problems. Some people experience both types of sleep apnea. Treatment will vary depending on the suspected problem.
To learn more about sleep apnea, call Rosemont Dental in Frederick, MD, at (301) 663-114 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Askari.