Based on the statistics, 45 percent of normal adults snore occasionally and 25 percent of them are habitual snorers. With problem snoring, it is more prevalent in males and overweight people which usually worsens with age. But it is one thing to snore while you sleep than to have literally stop breathing.
Before defining sleep apnea, this is a breakdown of how breathing works:
- When you’re awake and conscious, the muscles of your throat act to keep the airway straight and open so air can flow in and out of your lungs.
- When you sleep, those muscles relax and your throat gets narrower.
- But this doesn’t close the airway, it just slows down your breathing during your sleep.
However, when you have sleep apnea you literally stop breathing for at least 10 seconds because there is either something blocking the air’s pathway or your brain stops telling you lungs to breathe. Thus, your throat muscles fail to keep that airway open, making it impossible for air to flow in and out of your lungs and you stop breathing (apnea).
“The easiest way to define sleep apnea is you stop breathing for at least 10 seconds more than five times an hour during sleep, and this significantly impacts your overall health,” Michael Breus, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Just in America alone, sleep apnea affects over 18 million people, 5 to 10 percent are adults and 2 to 3 percent are kids.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most common type of this disorder. The physical narrowing or closing of your throat is because there is an actual blockage. This means that oxygen can no longer get inside your body despite its effort to breathe. The usual cause of obstructive sleep apnea is the “abnormal anatomy” or the excess weight around the neck. Abnormal anatomy can include very large tonsils or a large tongue that could obstruct airway.
“Additionally, having a BMI over 30 can increase someone’s risk of obstructive sleep apnea or the severity of the apnea. The extra weight on the neck can get pushed down onto the throat, which forces it to close.” says Breus. But this doesn’t mean that being overweight guarantee you in developing sleep apnea. Breus also said that people of all weights can get sleep apnea, even small children.
Central Sleep Apnea
Another type of sleep apnea, although less common. The more rare and scary type is cause when the part of your brain that controls breathing just stops communicating with your lungs. This is also much more difficult to treat because the cause can have several factors.
So how would you know if you have this disorder? Your doctor will usually let patients do a sleep study. “Usually we’ll look for symptoms such as being tired or irritable or waking up with headaches, then we’ll send them to a sleep lab to see if it’s from apnea,” Breus says. A sleep study is a non-invasive exam where doctors monitor your body and brain activity during your sleep. They use EEG monitors to track your brain activity and measure your blood oxygen levels, heart rate, and snoring – it’s the most reliable exam to diagnose sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a very common disorder, so don’t worry if you think you might have the condition. There are several treatment you can opt for to treat it, the most common being the CPAP machine. Although there are people who choose to have surgery or dental appliances.
Depending on a patient’s case, a dental device is often the recommended treatment for sleep apnea. As opposed to CPAP masks, many patients find dental devices to be more comfortable. And for patients that are a bit “active” during sleep, these oral devices can be best for them as there is less equipment and wires to tangle into during sleep.
If you think you are currently having these symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea, call or visit Roycrest Dental Center.