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What Is Sleep Apnea?

man sleeping badly

Sleep apnea is a health condition that can rob you of restful sleep. When you have sleep apnea, you’ll experience brief episodes of disrupted breathing throughout the night. Most of the time, these episodes will be so short that you won’t realize that you quit breathing, but you may notice the signs of sleep apnea during the day. Fortunately, there are several effective treatment options that you can try to keep your breathing regular for a full night of restful sleep. Your dentist in Dalton is equipped with the knowledge and equipment that you need to take advantage of some of the latest advances in sleep apnea treatment!

Why Does Sleep Apnea Occur?

Have you ever been amazed at how relaxed a newborn’s body gets as they fall asleep? Your body also goes through a similar state of relaxation as your muscles and ligaments prepare to rest and recover from the stress of your day. While this is a normal and good process, there is the chance that the soft tissues in your throat and mouth can become relaxed to the degree that they block your airway.

On occasion, sleep apnea occurs from other causes, such as the brain not signaling the respiratory system to keep operating. In both situations, you can stop breathing multiple times during the night. Then, you’ll wake up once your body realizes it’s not breathing. This leads to a fitful night of sleep that sometimes makes people feel like they’d been struggling in a physical battle all night long. When you think about it, your body actually was fighting for air, which is why you feel so exhausted.

Are There Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can strike anyone, regardless of controllable risk factors such as obesity and smoking. However, it does help to know what you can change, since making a few small adjustments to your lifestyle could help you breathe better at night. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or using sedating drugs can cause your brain to be unable to communicate with your respiratory system properly. Being overweight is another risk factor that you might be able to change.

Other risk factors are important to know about, since they can be a springboard for conversations with your doctor and your dentist in Dalton about sleep apnea. Aging, or being over the age of 60, is a significant risk factor, and men seem to develop the condition more often than women.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

If you’ve ever woken up sputtering and trying to catch a breath, then it is possible that you’ve experienced a sleep apnea episode. This can occur as a one-time event, but you’ll want to be concerned if it keeps occurring. As expected, you will often feel extremely tired upon waking after a night of fighting to get some air. People with sleep apnea may also feel cranky and deal with brain fog when they attempt to do cognitive tasks.

How Many Types of Sleep Apnea Are There?

The types of sleep apnea occur in two main places on your body. The rarer type is called central sleep apnea. People with central sleep apnea have a disruption occur in their brain that stops it from sending signals to the body that it needs to breathe while you sleep. When your body makes no effort to breathe for a short period of time, the other systems will take over and jolt you awake. You’ll usually feel breathless for a few seconds until your respiratory system catches back up.

Since this is the rarer type, you’ll usually see it in people who have other health conditions that impact their brain’s connection to your respiratory system. For instance, having a nervous system disorder is a risk factor for central sleep apnea. People who already have chronically low blood oxygen levels from heart disease may also lack the trigger response in their brain that stimulates nighttime breathing.

The other type is more common, and you’ll hear your doctor refer to this kind as obstructive sleep apnea. As the name suggests, this form of sleep apnea happens when something obstructs your airway. Your throat and windpipe are made up of and surrounded by soft tissues that include muscles that can relax as you fall asleep. Sometimes, the muscles and your tongue get too relaxed and naturally fall into your airway, which blocks the ability for air to pass through.

What Are Effective Sleep Apnea Treatments?

Sleep apnea patients are often provided with guidance on how to make some lifestyle changes to help them breathe better. Starting a weight management program to eat healthier and lose extra pounds can relieve some of the pressure on your windpipe that increases your sleep apnea episodes. You can also try sleeping on your side. Going to sleep on your side keeps your mouth and throat tissues from being able to fall backwards into your windpipe.

A CPAP machine, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device, might look a little strange at first, but it is one of the most commonly prescribed sleep apnea treatments. This device is meant to push air through your windpipe with just enough pressure that it will move any soft tissues out of the way.

Dental appliances are another kind of treatment that some people find to be easier to tolerate compared to the face mask and noisy CPAP machine. Surgery is a final option that doctors will turn to once the other treatments don’t work. Generally, you’ll be encouraged to try the least invasive options first to see if they provide you with relief.

What Options Might a Dentist in Dalton Suggest for Sleep Apnea Relief?

The connection between your mouth and throat is pretty hard to miss, and this is why dentists are able to play an active role in your sleep apnea treatment. Do you remember those dental appliances we just talked about? They fit in your mouth a lot like orthodontic retainers do. Using their expertise, your dentist can help to make sure that your appliance is a perfect fit for holding your jaw and tongue in the right position. When you need help with sleep apnea, just give our dentist in Dalton a call to get fitted for an appliance that can give you a renewed perspective on the joy of getting a full night of sleep.

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Drs. Grant and Conger

602 Main Street, Dalton, GA 30720

(706) 847-4165