Many people snore, some snore more than others. But did you know snoring is a symptom of a very serious condition known as sleep apnea? Sleep apnea occurs because the soft palette in your throat relaxes while you sleep blocking off your airway. This is known as obstructive sleep apnea. Another type of sleep apnea is not as common and known as central sleep apnea occurs when the brain “forgets” to tell your body to breath during sleep. Sleep apnea is directly related to serious health issues such as high blood pressure and stroke, and if left treated even death.
Between 50 to 70 million in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea disrupts your natural sleep pattern leaving you feeling exhausted and tired in the morning. Since you stop breathing your body is not getting the oxygen it needs. This can occur several times a night causing your blood oxygen levels to drop to a dangerous level. You or your partner may notice you stop breathing or snore very loudly and often. Some of the other symptoms of sleep apnea include the following:
- Waking up gasping for air
- Rapid heartbeat upon waking
- Feeling exhausted during the day
- Falling asleep during the day
- Entering REM sleep (the sleep stage in which you dream) as soon as you close your eyes
- Waking up with a headache
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- An inability to concentrate
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms speak to your doctor. Treatment of sleep apnea is fairly simple and straightforward. Some patients use a CPAP or Bi-PAP machine to provide positive airflow during the night while others may find relief with a mouth guard or dental appliance.
A dental appliance is custom fabricated to pull your lower jaw out a bit to keep your airways open. Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth as well as digital images and send them to the lab. Once your appliance is finished you will return for a fitting and wear your appliance while you sleep. Many people find relief from sleep apnea using a dental appliance.
If you experience any symptoms related to sleep apnea talk to your dentist and doctor to formulate the best treatment for your case. Sleep apnea is a serious condition, but it is easily treated so you can stay healthy for many years.