What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breath is interrupted during sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common of the two forms of apnea; it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. With central sleep apnea, unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center.
Snoring is often a loud or harsh sound that occurs as you sleep. You snore when the flow of air as you breathe makes the tissues in the back of your throat vibrate. The sound most often occurs as you breathe in air, and can come through the nose, mouth or a combination of the two. It can occur during any stage of sleep. Snoring is more common in men, though many women snore. It appears to run in families and becomes more common as you get older. About 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women are habitual snorers. Congestion from a cold or allergies can also cause you to snore.
Snoring vs. Sleep Apnea:
Snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea but not everyone who snores has the sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes you to temporarily stop breathing when you are asleep.
Treatment for sleep apnea:
The dentist may recommend you see a sleep medicine physician trained to detect and diagnose sleep apnea using an in-lab sleep study or home sleep testing. Sleep apnea is manageable using several approaches including CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), oral appliance therapy and surgery. In some cases, it may be recommended you wear a device that includes a mask you wear over your nose or mouth, or both. An air blower forces constant and continuous air through the nose or mouth. The air pressure is just enough to keep the upper airway tissues from collapsing during sleep. Other types of positive airway pressure devices are also available, including the BPAP, which has two levels of air flow that vary with breathing in and out.
If you suspect you may be suffering from either sleep apnea, or snoring, call our office for a consultation with the dentist.