Sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects millions of American people. This condition is often overlooked or misdiagnosed by doctors. It is major condition that can cause many health concerns if not properly treated.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that disrupts sleep because of pauses in breathing. The pauses in breathing can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and usually occur 5 to 30 times per hour during sleep.
Sleep apnea moves the person from a deep, sound sleep to a light, disrupted sleep and is an condition that is ongoing. The pauses in breathing cause the light sleep to occur because it disrupts normal sleeping patterns. The continued light sleep causes excessive daytime sleepiness because the person cannot move into the much-needed deep sleep.
Sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Episodes of stopped breathing
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty thinking and concentrating
Types of Sleep Apnea
The three types of sleep apnea are central, obstructive, and mixed.
With central sleep apnea, the brain has episodes where it “forgets” to tell the breathing muscles to function. The person with sleep apnea ends up sleeping through a major episode of stopped breathing that may result in death. Central sleep apnea is the most dangerous type and is extremely rare.
The second type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This is the most common type of sleep apnea and is caused by blockage of the airways. The soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep and causes the blockage. The soft is made up of the tongue, the soft palate, and the uvula.
Mixed sleep apnea is the third type and is a combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea. An episode of mixed sleep apnea starts with a component of central sleep apnea that then becomes obstructive. The central sleep apnea component usually lessens in intensity once the obstructive sleep apnea component is treated.
Sleeping disorders are one of the most common health problems in America. They are also some of the most serious. Unfortunately, sleeping disorders, especially sleep apnea, are grossly over-looked, ignored, tolerated, misdiagnosed and mistreated. Even when sleep apnea is correctly diagnosed and treated, compliance with treatment is low.
What most people don’t realize is that sleeping disorders, especially sleep apnea, can be deadly.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring occurs when the tissues of the throat are so lax or narrowed that air cannot pass normally. This decreases the amount of air to the lungs, the heart has to work harder, and quality sleep is interrupted, all interfering with healthy living.
Many, if not all, snoring patients should be evaluated for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when the tongue and surrounding tissues collapse to the back of the throat, causing the person to momentarily shut off all airways to the lungs. The patient stops breathing. This causes the brain to initiate a muscle spasm to reopen the airway (the brain really doesn’t like not getting oxygen).
A Health Risk
An interrupted night’s sleep isn’t the real problem. A patient with sleep apnea is three to five times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, and is seven times more likely to die in his or her sleep.
As our population gets increasingly overweight, the percentage of the population that suffers from sleep apnea increases. But this problem is not confined to middle-aged men who may be carrying some extra weight.
Conservative estimates place patients with sleep disorders at 12 percent of the public. These people are shaving years off their lives by adding stress to their heart muscles. But a scarier fact is… they’re endangering all of us.
These folks just aren’t getting enough good sleep. They are constantly tired, and are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel of a car. A sleep-deprived person is as high a risk for causing an accident as someone impaired by excessive alcohol consumption.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, please contact The Gentle Dentistry’s Dr. Maggie Abadan for a confidential sleep apnea consultation. She will be able to answer all of your questions and help you decide what sleep apnea treatments are best for your condition.
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