Sleep apnea is a condition in which the airway opening becomes obstructed repeatedly while the patient is asleep. This happens when the soft tissues near the airway go slack while you are lying down, and they slide over to cover the airway opening. When the airway is just partially blocked, the air will create a noise as it passes through the vibrating tissues. That is when snoring occurs. Eventually, the airway is completely blocked, and the patient stops breathing briefly. The brain is alerted to this situation and wakes the patient in order to re-establish the normal breathing pattern. The whole cycle then repeats itself throughout the night.
In addition to snoring, a patient who has sleep apnea may experience other symptoms, such as daytime drowsiness, frequent morning headaches, sore throats or dry mouth, and mood and attention issues.
Even though the apneas (pauses in breathing) are brief, they still deprive your body of an adequate supply of oxygen. This contributes to inflammation throughout the body, which is associated with a variety of diseases. Indeed, sleep apnea appears to have a correlation with health concerns like high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Some evidence even suggests that people with sleep apnea face a higher risk of sudden death.
Of course, your sleeping partner’s relationship satisfaction is important, too! Therefore, to address all of the issues related to sleep apnea, you should explore treatment options.
Fortunately, effective sleep apnea treatment is available to eliminate your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Many patients respond well to oral appliance therapy, which involves wearing a mouthguard during sleep to hold your jaw or tongue in a forward position and keep the soft tissues away from the airway opening. This method is more conservative and more comfortable than alternatives like CPAP masks or surgical interventions.
If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to get treatment, for both the health of your relationship and your body! Come to our office for an evaluation and to learn about your various treatment options.