Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that involves repeated breathing interruptions during sleep. These interruptions may occur hundreds of times each night, and may be the result of structural abnormalities or brain malfunctions. During normal breathing, air passes through the nose, past the flexible structures in the back of the throat, including the soft palate, uvula and tongue. When a person is awake, the muscles hold this airway open. When they are asleep, these muscles relax and the airway usually stays open. Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway and airflow are blocked, causing the oxygen levels to drop in both in the brain and the blood, resulting in shallow breathing or breathing pauses during sleep. While you might think you slept for 6-8 hours last night, every time you stopped breathing, followed by a harmful drop in your blood oxygen level, your body’s self-preservation mechanism (fight or flight) took over and sent a burst of adrenaline through your bloodstream to wake you enough to begin breathing again. Imagine doing this every 4 minutes (mild), or every 2 minutes (moderate) or every minute or less if you suffer from severe sleep apnea! No wonder you’re exhausted all day. You haven’t really slept all night! Your body and mind never had a chance to reach the recuperative stages of “deep sleep” and “REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep”, when your cells regenerate and your memories are sealed.
Causes Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs as a result of a partial or fully blocked airway passage in the throat. Certain factors may put certain people at risk for developing sleep apnea, which include:
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Cardiovascular problems
- Throat and tongue muscles that are more relaxed than normal
- Deviated septum
- Receding chin
- Poorly aligned teeth
- Family history
- Nasal congestion and Allergies
Adults over the age of 60 may be more at risk of developing sleep apnea because the aging process may limit the brain’s ability to keep the throat muscles stiff during sleep.
Heavy use of alcohol or sedatives may also contribute to sleep apnea because these substances may relax the muscles of the throat.
While the typical Sleep Apnea patient is an overweight male over 50 years old with high blood pressure, I see plenty of thin, young, healthy-looking females that love to work out at the gym daily, yet are exhausted most of the day! They are more often wrongly diagnosed with psychological problems like depression, anxiety and hypochondria.
How Can We Help You?
Here at Seaside Dental Care, we offer highly successful sleep apnea treatment through oral appliance therapy. Our dentists have been trained to treat people through their advanced continuing education courses on Dental Sleep Medicine. Call our office today (714) 536-6633 to schedule an appointment and let us help you and your partner get the quality sleep you deserve.