Is snoring just a noisy nuisance or is it a sign of something more serious?
Anyone who’s lived with a snorer knows how frustrating it can be. Snoring can have a huge impact on anyone sleeping within earshot. Sleep deprivation that is caused by being woken up by snoring can take its toll on relationships, job performance, personal safety, and emotional health.
But think about the one doing the snoring. In many cases it may look like they are sleeping peacefully. But snoring may indicate a more serious health issue, sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly sleep disorder that causes one to momentarily stop breathing during sleep. The brain, upon sensing a lack of oxygen, wakes the sleeper up briefly so that breathing can resume.
Sleep apnea occurs because the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much. The role of these muscles is to support:
- your soft palate
- your tonsils
- the side walls of your throat
- your tongue
- your uvula (the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate
When your throat muscles over-relax, your airway can narrow or close as you breathe in. This impacts your ability to get an adequate breath.
This can cause lowered levels of oxygen in your blood. It can also impact your sleep quality because, as your brain senses this lack of breath, it briefly rouses you from sleep so you can resume breathing. This awakening is often so brief that many people don’t remember it, but it can prevent you from reaching the deeper, restorative stages of sleep that are required for you to recharge.
Who’s at risk?
Sleep apnea doesn’t discriminate – anyone can have it. You can be young, old, male, female or a child. But there are certain characteristics that can increase your risk of sleep apnea, such as being:
- related to someone who has sleep apnea
- 0ver the age of 65
- a smoker
Other risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include having:
- a thick neck
- a deviated septum
- enlarged tonsils or adenoids (the most common cause of sleep apnea in children)
- a receding chin
- medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and/or blockage
Sleep apnea can be treated
If you experience:
- morning headaches
- a dry mouth (which can occur due to open mouth breathing during sleep)
it’s likely Lethbridge dentist Dr. Lachman will refer you to a sleep clinic or sleep specialist.
If sleep apnea is diagnosed and the cause is due to a problem with the positioning or alignment of your jaw, a dental appliance for sleep apnea, a device that looks similar to an athletic mouthguard, can help to reposition the jaw and tongue to improve airflow during sleep.
Do you have sleep apnea?
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. One of the most reliable indicators of sleep apnea is how you feel during the day.
If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, see Dr. Lachman and your medical doctor as soon as you can. While there is no cure, there are effective treatments that can help you get back to healthy sleep.