Sleep apnea is a common, but potentially dangerous, sleep disorder characterized by the temporary pause in breathing while the patient sleeps. There are a few causes of this disorder and it can be traced to musculoskeletal or neurological origins. For example, sometimes your throat muscles may relax too much, causing the airway to close. Another musculoskeletal example is misalignment of the jaw that forces the airway closed.
Neurological causes, on the other hand, may be causing nerve signals to misfire so that your airway closes, or you just stop breathing in general. As you can imagine, sleep apnea can be a serious danger and can also lead to many long-term health issues. We can provide more details on this disorder at Joshua M. Ignatowicz DMD & Associates.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is sometimes hard to notice since the symptoms mostly happen while you sleep. It is critical that you inform someone if you notice symptoms in them. Some common symptoms include snoring, paused breathing, gasping, fatigue, poor sleep quality, insomnia, headaches, difficulty concentrating, loss of memory, and mood changes.
There are certain risk factors to be aware of so you can be extra sensitive to noticing these signs. For instance, people who are overweight, middle aged, and male tend to develop this disorder more often. Having a large neck, high blood pressure, and family history of sleep apnea are also risk factors.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis
Let us know immediately if you develop any symptoms of sleep apnea, especially if you have any of the physical risk factors listed above. Our dentist may refer you to a specialist who may conduct a lab or home sleep study. Keeping a sleep diary with notes about bedtime, what time you wake up, how many times you woke up during the night, and other relevant details is also very helpful. Should you be officially diagnosed with sleep apnea, we will develop a treatment plan.
Treatment depends on the cause and severity of your condition. For example, if a neurological disorder is causing your autonomic breathing to “shut off”, a nightguard is not going to help you. Alternatively, you would not need medication or extensive treatment for something as simple as jaw misalignment.
Common treatments for sleep apnea include CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines, oral appliances, and surgery. We may also offer nutritional and lifestyle (ex. smoking) advice should physical health issues be causing your sleep apnea.
CPAP machines work by using air pressure to keep your airway open throughout the night. This is the most common treatment, but there are several different types. We will go over these with you during a consultation for treatment.
Oral appliances, such as nightguards, prevent airway closure by repositioning your tongue and jaw. These appliances keep your tongue and jaw in a forward position to ensure your airway does not collapse. They are also helpful in realigning the jaw over time, so you may not need to use them permanently.
Surgery is saved for the most severe cases. This would include the removal or reshaping of tissues to ensure the airway remains open. For more advice on sleep apnea, contact Joshua M. Ignatowicz DMD & Associates at 702-473-5100 now.