Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when a person’s upper airway becomes blocked while they are asleep, causing him or her to stop breathing for several seconds at a time. During this time, the bloodstream does not receive enough oxygen. It’s a serious condition that is usually diagnosed via a sleep study, but it can be treated with a continuous positive air pressure or CPAP machine. Doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes, depending on the cause of the sleep apnea. .
When left untreated, sleep apnea can have severe consequences, such as chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, heart attack, type II diabetes, and even death. It can also lead to disruptions during your day-to-day life, particularly leaving you exhausted even after a full night of sleep. This exhaustion may cause you to fall asleep while working, driving, taking care of children, or during other dangerous situations.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, there are signs to watch for. They include frequent loud snoring, waking up with shortness of breath, headaches, high blood pressure, dry mouth, insomnia, sore throat, and irritability during the daytime. If you sleep with a partner, he or she may notice the signs and symptoms before you do. If you do suffer from the condition, it’s important to understand what may be the culprit. These are the most common causes:
1. Excess Weight
The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in the United States is excess weight. Individuals who are overweight or obese have additional tissue in the area around their mouths and throats. While sleeping, the muscles in this part of the body relax, and the extra fatty tissue can cause an obstruction in the airway, which, in turn, causes sleep apnea.
Of course, losing weight can help improve the condition. Unfortunately, many overweight people who suffer from sleep apnea find that starting a healthy diet and exercise regimen is difficult because the condition leads to daytime exhaustion. Studies have also shown that the lack of sleep and general tiredness can wreak havoc on the person’s metabolism, hormone levels, and insulin levels, all of which can impact the ability to lose weight. In many cases, bariatric surgery has shown to be successful in improving the outcome of overweight individuals with sleep apnea.
It’s important to keep in mind that not all people with sleep apnea are overweight, and not all overweight people will suffer from sleep apnea in their lifetimes. If you are overweight or obese and feel like it is impacting your ability to get a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor. A sleep study may be in your future. Addressing any problems you have getting good quality sleep may even be incorporated into a healthy weight loss plan.
Consult your doctor for medical advice regarding sleep apnea. At Lee and Milani Family Dentistry, we offer Oral Appliance Therapy to patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. If you feel like you may be a candidate for Oral Appliance Therapy, call us today to set up a consultation.