Sleep apnea is a chronic condition characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. Usually these pauses occur because the airway has become blocked, obstructing sleep and causing the body to become oxygen deprived. Snoring, gasping, and choking may occur as the individual struggles to breathe normally again. People sometimes grind their teeth to move the jaw forward to help open the airway.
Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and a family member may be the first to notice it. Sleep apnea can lead to other more serious conditions and trouble with day-to-day activities. For the sufferer of sleep apnea, sleeping at night is often unsatisfying, leading to drowsiness and difficulty concentrating during the waking hours. Sleep apnea can be life-threatening and requires long-term treatment.
Some of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Snoring, Choking, & Gasping
- Waking Up at Night
- Unrefreshing Sleep
- Memory Loss
- Oxygen Deprivation
- Fatigue & Difficulty Concentrating
Managing Sleep Apnea
Sleep studies for the individual patient are warranted to determine the severity of the sleep apnea condition in the patient. The appropriate treatment plan is utilized depending on the results of the sleep studies.
In some cases, when the condition is mild or not too severe, we are able to intervene with appliance therapy. If warranted, the appliance will be worn at night to hold the lower jaw forward to open the airway and restore the flow of oxygen during sleep.
The Risks of Sleep Apnea
As with many chronic health issues, sleep apnea can lead to other serious health problems if left untreated. Some of the potential risks of sleep apnea include:
- High Blood Pressure
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Heart Disease
- Driving & Work Accidents
- Tooth Wear
- Bone Loss
Although it is often a loved one who notices the symptoms of sleep apnea at first, professional medical help is vital. Sleep apnea is a serious, life-threatening condition. It requires long-term treatment and management.
Sleep apnea is often under diagnosed and the symptoms can be hard to spot for your doctor or dentist. It is important to take warning signs seriously and find professional help once you notice the warning signs. Regular snoring, trouble sleeping, and stress-related issues at work and at home are fairly trustworthy signs of chronic sleep apnea. Issues like depression and irritability could also be a result of oxygen deprivation and lack of sleep during the night hours.