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Sleep Apnea

Woman covering ears while husband snoresOver 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by a person's breathing repeatedly stopping and restarting during sleep.

There are several different kinds of sleep apnea, but the most common type is known as obstructive sleep apnea.

Causes and Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea can be potentially risky to a person's overall health. The disorder occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax to such an extent that they sag down and close off your airway. When that happens, your normal breathing may be interrupted for 10 seconds or more. The low level of oxygen in your bloodstream causes a buildup of carbon dioxide, which sends a signal to the brain to wake you up. The brain rouses you briefly so that you can open your airways and correct your breathing. Often the waking period is so short that the person suffering from sleep apnea may not even remember waking up.

This pattern can repeat itself up to 30 times in a single hour. You may make a gasping, choking or snorting sound while regaining your breath and may also snore loudly during the night. The repeated disruptions in your sleep also prevent you from getting the desired amount of quality sleep.

The low oxygen levels to the brain and the sleep deprivation can result in several health conditions including anxiety, fatigue, headaches, hypertension, high blood pressure, memory problems, mood swings and problems in focusing. It also carries an increased risk of drowsy driving.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Not all people who snore may suffer from sleep apnea. At Simi Hills Dental, Dr. Stout may recommend a sleep study to diagnose if you have sleep apnea. The study monitors functions like sleep state, muscle activity, eye movement, heart rate, airflow, respiratory effort, and blood oxygen levels to diagnose sleep apnea and to determine its severity.

Treatment options will depend upon how severe your condition is. Some popular treatment options include the use of:
•  Breathing Devices: Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) treatment is the most common type and involves wearing a mask over your nose and mouth which will provide you with a constant stream of air that will prevent your airways from becoming blocked. Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) devices, bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP or BPAP) devices, and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) devices are some other common apparatus that are used to treat the various forms of sleep apnea.
•  Oral Appliances: Oral appliances and mouthpieces are custom-designed devices that you can place in your mouth while you are sleeping. The most common type of oral devices are mandibular repositioning devices that push your lower jaw forward to prevent blockage of airways. Another type of oral appliance includes the tongue repositioning device that holds your tongue in position to keep it from obstructing your throat.
•  Sleep Apnea Implant: A sleep apnea implant involves surgically inserting a pacemaker that tightens the muscles of the upper throat and tongue to keep the airways open. This is used for people with moderate to severe sleep apnea.
•  Surgery: If the above options don't work, surgery can be done to reduce sleep apnea symptoms. This can include removal of the tonsils, excess throat tissues and adenoids, reconstruction of the jaw and implant surgery in the soft palate. These surgeries are invasive and carry a high risk of infection and complication.

If you experience any sleep problems like loud snoring, or if you feel fatigued and irritated throughout the day, schedule a checkup appointment by calling us at (805) 317-4999 today.
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