What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects the way you breathe while sleeping – often leading to frequent, loud snoring. Specifically, this is instigated when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes while you sleep, causing interruptions in breathing. These interruptions usually last between 10 to 20 seconds and can occur up to hundreds of times a night. Sleep apnea is typically more prevalent in males, smokers, and the elderly; it can also cause a wide range of problems from sleep disturbance to more serious health issues. However, with advances in dental devices, this condition can now be treated and controlled.
Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Loud, chronic snoring and long pauses in breath
- Choking or gasping while sleeping
- Feeling tired and sleepy throughout the day
- Waking up with a headache, dry mouth or sore throat
- Insomnia or constantly waking during the night
- Forgetfulness, irritability or depression
Problems That Can Develop from Untreated Sleep Apnea
- Chronic tiredness from sleep deprivation
- Slower reflexes, poor concentration
- High blood pressure and weight gain
- Health issues such as diabetes and heart disease
Preventing Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be treated by utilizing dental devices. Most of these devices are acrylic and fit inside your mouths like an athletic mouth guard. Other devices such as the mandibular repositioning device and the tongue retaining device are worn over the head and chin, which helps adjust the position of your jaw and tongue so that your airways remain open. When using these dental devices, it's important to consult a dentist who specializes in sleep apnea and have the equipment properly fitted. There are other things you can do every day to minimize sleep apnea, including avoiding smoking, alcohol, heavy meals, caffeine, keeping regular sleeping hours and sleeping on your side.