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5 Things You Need To Know About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that makes you stop breathing repeatedly while you're sleeping. Every time you stop breathing, you wake up and then start breathing again. There are different types of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. Here's what you need to know about it.

What obstructs your breathing?

Excess tissue in the back of your throat is responsible for sleep apnea. This tissue blocks your airway while you're sleeping, which makes you unable to breathe. This excess tissue can occur in a lot of areas, such as your tongue, your tonsils, or your palate. This excess tissue isn't a problem during the day when you're upright, but when you lie down to sleep, it presses against your airway.

How do you know you have obstructive sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea makes you stop breathing and wake up repetitively during the night, but you may not notice that you're doing this. You will feel the effects the next morning, though, as you'll be very tired and may even fall asleep at some point during the day. Some people with this condition fall asleep when they're sitting at their desk at work, or when they're sitting in front of the television.

You may not even be the one who notices that there's something wrong. Your friends and family may point out that you're very sleepy all the time. Snoring is another sign of obstructive sleep apnea, and over time, it gets louder and happens more frequently. You won't know that you're snoring, but your partner or family members will definitely tell you.

Who gets obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea can happen to anyone, but some groups of people have a higher risk than others. Men are more likely to suffer from this condition than women are, and people who are obese or who have high blood pressure are also at an increased risk.

How do dentists treat obstructive sleep apnea?

Dentists can treat this condition in a few ways. The first is by using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. CPAP machines are masks that you wear to bed. They cover your nose and mouth, and continuously push air down your airway. This constant flow of air keeps your tissues from blocking your airway and ensures that you can keep breathing all night.

Dentists can also make dental appliances to hold the tissues out of the ways. These appliances look like mouth guards and are used to pull your lower jaw forward. This keeps your airway open during the night, without you needing to wear an uncomfortable CPAP machine.

What happens if it's not treated?

Obstructive sleep apnea isn't just something that makes you feel tired; it can lead to very serious consequences in the future. Studies have shown that it increases your blood pressure and impairs the function of your entire cardiovascular system. This is a major problem and can lead to heart attacks and even death.

The risk of death due to sleep apnea is not insignificant. One study followed a group of people, some with sleep apnea and some without, over 14 years to see how much of an impact sleep apnea had on mortality. At the completion of the study, only 7.7% of people without the condition had died, compared to 33% of people with moderate to severe sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a very serious condition. If you're very tired during the day, or your partner complains that you snore very loudly, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Make an appointment with your dentist to discuss your symptoms and if necessary, start treatment. For more information, contact a local dental clinic like Forest Lawn Dental Centre.