Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs as the individual’s breathing is interrupted repeatedly throughout the night. If you snore, awaken in the night, or wake up exhausted, you may have sleep apnea -- or you may not even be aware that it’s happening. But when your breathing stops repeatedly, it can lead to oxygen deprivation. This lack of sufficient oxygen can have devastating effects, especially if your sleep apnea goes undiagnosed or untreated.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. And 80% of those with moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), remain undiagnosed. Untreated OSA can lead to myriad health issues, as well as pose a threat to those around you due to your extreme fatigue and drowsiness.
No one is immune, as it can strike anyone of any age, including infants and children. However, the prime candidates for OSA seem to be males over the age of 40 who are carrying more than a few extra pounds.
Additional risk factors for sleep apnea include lifestyle and habits, such as smoking, lack of aerobic activity, consuming a lot of alcohol, using certain controlled substances, and eating heavy meals. It can be rooted in your physical make-up, as it’s seen in those with small jaws, large tonsils, and large tongues. Even genetics and race may be contributing factors.
If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, Dr. Patti Swaintek-Lamb and the staff here at Aesthetic Dentistry of Bernardsville can help by partnering with your sleep specialist. For many of our patients, an oral appliance can treat sleep apnea and help prevent further health issues. Treating your sleep apnea allows your body to enjoy restful and restorative sleep each night.
The toll uncontrolled sleep apnea take on your health
There are actually three types of sleep apnea, all posing the same danger as the body is deprived of oxygen.
Obstructive sleep apnea: caused by a blockage closing off the airway, typically the tongue pushing up against the soft palate
Central sleep apnea: the airway isn’t blocked, but the brain fails to send messages to the muscles to breathe
Complex sleep apnea: a combination of OSA and central sleep apnea
With each event of apnea, the brain alerts you that you’re failing to breathe (often during your most essential part of the sleep cycle, the REM period) and you are awakened. In some cases this can happen on and off all through the night. This results in a disrupted sleep cycle, which takes a toll on your health.
Conditions associated with, or worsened by, sleep apnea
Although sleep deprivation and lack of sufficient oxygen are in and of themselves risky to your health, sleep apnea can also contribute to serious chronic conditions such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Increased LDL cholesterol
- Heart attack, AFib, and heart failure
Although obesity is a risk factor in many of these chronic conditions, as well as a contributor to sleep apnea, not everyone who develops sleep apnea is obese.
Sleep apnea can also cause or worsen:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Symptoms of ADHD
- Weak immune system
- Chronic headaches
Drowsiness and chronic fatigue can lead to mental confusion and an inability to make quick judgments, which is dangerous to those around you, especially when you’re driving or operating machinery.
If you have sleep apnea, contact our office for a consultation with Dr. Swaintek-Lamb. Call our office in Bernardsville, New Jersey, or click the “request appointment” button to get started.