Snoring can be a sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a deadly medical condition defined by periods during the night when the sufferer literally stops breathing for more than ten seconds at a time. Aside from causing a restless sleep for both you and your sleep partner, this period of suffocation initiates alarm systems that stress the body, leading to a host of problems in organ systems throughout the body.
What Causes Snoring and Sleep Apnea?
Snoring is extremely common, and it can affect anyone at any age. Although generally associated with men over the age of 40, 24 percent of women and 10 to 12 percent of children are also habitual snorers.
Snoring occurs while you’re sleeping because the soft palate’s muscles, found in the roof of your mouth — as well as the tongue and throat — relax. When this happens, your airway becomes partially obstructed. As air flows past the soft tissues in your throat, they vibrate, producing that well-known noise. Many factors can cause or contribute to snoring, including:
- Anatomical features that create an especially narrow airway
- Obesity or excess weight gain
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tobacco before bed
Although snoring does not always signify that a patient has OSA, those who snore should consider getting screened for the condition, as it can produce a variety of health issues. The difference between average snoring and sleep apnea is how much the airway is obstructed while you sleep. Snoring is just a partial obstruction, while sleep apnea completely blocks the airway.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Snoring isn’t the only warning sign that you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. You should look out for a few other symptoms that could indicate undiagnosed OSA, such as:
- Loud snoring
- Snoring interrupted by pauses
- Choking or gasping awake
- Difficulty staying asleep or restless sleep
- A sore throat or dry mouth when you wake up
- Morning headaches
- Chest pain at night
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
- Trouble concentrating
- High blood pressure
- Mood swings
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight despite proper diet and exercise
If you have OSA, the condition produces a vicious cycle which, if left untreated, can take a toll on your health. When a sleep apnea event occurs, breathing can stop altogether, causing a drop in oxygen that signals your brain to release stress hormones and make your heart rate increase. When this process occurs, patients generally wake from sleep and return to breathing normally. But once you resume sleeping, the cycle starts all over again. This dangerous pattern can create systemic inflammation throughout your body and chronic poor health.
Effects of Snoring and Risks Associated With Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea affects more than 20 million Americans and can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and daytime sleepiness contributing to increased risk for motor vehicle and workplace accidents. It has been estimated that even mild sleep apnea can decrease life expectancy by ten years. Other conditions associated with sleep apnea include:
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks
- Gastric reflux
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Type 2 diabetes
- Organ failure
Dental Snoring Solutions and Sleep Apnea Treatments
The good news about sleep apnea is that the screening process to determine if you have the condition is straightforward, requiring a simple at-home overnight monitor. Once the results return, OSA can be diagnosed and effectively treated.
Physicians will often recommend a CPAP to manage sleep apnea. This continuous positive airway pressure device is a mask that fits over your nose and possibly your mouth as well. Air is then blown into your airway as you sleep to keep it open. However, some patients complain that the device creates a feeling of suffocation.
Dentistry can offer other options. These solutions range from dental or oral devices to orthodontic and surgical options that open the airway more permanently. At Green Hills Dentistry, Dr. Forgosh is committed to helping you find the solution that works best for you, which could include a:
- Mandibular advancement device: This common sleep apnea treatment is a mouthpiece that holds the lower jaw forward, helping to keep the airway open.
- Tongue-retraining device: A splint that keeps the tongue in its proper position, allowing the airway to remain open, is a tongue-retraining device.
- Orthodontic treatment to expand the anatomical airway
- Jaw surgery to improve the anatomical airway
Find Out If You Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea
If you know you snore and suspect that you may have sleep apnea, make an appointment at Green Hills Dentistry to meet with Dr. Forgosh. Dr. Forgosh is committed to helping patients find the treatment they need to maintain their overall health and well-being.