Unable to get a good night’s sleep? If you snore frequently, it may be a sign of sleep apnea. Learn more about normal sleep patterns for children and adults.
- What Causes Snoring?
- Types of Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Risks
- Sleep Apnea and Snoring Treatment Options
- Pediatric Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Deprivation Facts
- Online Sleep Evaluation
What Causes Snoring?
If the airway is obstructed in any way, preventing air from flowing through the mouth or nose, snoring can occur. Some examples of how the airway can be obstructed include:
- If the throat or tongue muscles become too relaxed, they can fall back and obstruct the airway.
- Allergies, sinus infections, a deviated septum, and other nasal issues can prevent air from flowing through the nose, leading to obstruction.
- Some individuals may have excessive tissue that can obstruct the airway, such as a long uvula and/or long soft palate. These structures may vibrate against each other, narrowing the airway and causing an obstruction.
- Young children may snore due to their tonsils and adenoids obstructing the airway.
- Bulky throat tissue that obstructs the airway can sometimes be associated with individuals who are overweight.
Fortunately, there are several remedies designed to help stop snoring, leading to a better night’s sleep for you and/or your partner. That being said, keep in mind that habitual snoring could potentially be a sign of sleep apnea—a condition associated with several serious health risks. For this reason, if you snore frequently, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea.
What Are the Types of Sleep Apnea?
There are a few different types of sleep apnea. The best treatment regimen for sleep apnea typically depends on the specific type that is diagnosed.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, often referred to as simply “OSA,” is the most common type of the condition. It has been estimated that 20% or more American adults suffer from OSA, and many children are affected by it, as well. OSA is characterized by a partial obstruction or total blockage of the airway while sleeping. Oral tissues and muscles that relax to the point that they settle into breathing passages in the mouth or nose can restrict or stop a healthy airflow into the lungs. This can result in extended breathing pauses that can occur several times throughout the night (even as much as 100 or more over the course of a single hour). When breathing stops, it can reduce oxygen levels in the bloodstream and cause the heart to beat faster. When this happens, the body may be sending signals to the brain that something is wrong, and that may cause an individual to experience a gasping or choking sensation during sleep. OSA can also cause a number of other symptoms (described in the sections below) that can lead to debilitating conditions during the day as well as significant risks to overall health.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is not as commonly diagnosed as OSA, but it is certainly no less serious. CSA is characterized by the brain’s temporary inability to properly signal the muscles responsible for normal breathing. As with OSA, this type of sleep apnea can produce life-threatening pauses in breathing during sleep. Individuals who have suffered from conditions that affect the brainstem (such as a stroke), and those who have had a brain infection or conditions of the cervical spine (neck) may be more at risk of developing CSA. This kind of sleep apnea can also be found in some individuals who have severe obesity, as well as those who are taking certain medications.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome
Individuals who are afflicted by both types of sleep apnea – OSA and CSA – may be diagnosed with Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome. Also referred to as “mixed sleep apnea,” this condition is sometimes found in patients who have been treated with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device that results in a reduction in airway obstruction, but still show no significant signs of breathing improvement. This may indicate that CSA is a factor in addition to OSA.
Sleep Apnea Causes, Symptoms, and Risks
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway is repeatedly blocked (partially or completely) during sleep. Due to the restricted airway, the chest muscles and diaphragm fight to pull more air into the lungs, often leading to a forceful jerk or loud gasp when breathing resumes. This pause in breath can lead to health risks and other negative side effects, so diagnosis and treatment is important.
What Are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?
It is quite common for individuals who suffer from sleep apnea to be unaware they have the condition—symptoms such as snoring and gasping for air are usually noticed by a loved one. Although a person’s bed partner is typically the first to see symptoms like snoring or pauses in breath while sleeping, there are many other indicators to watch for if you think you may have sleep apnea. Some of the most common signs include:
- Falling asleep during waking hours
- Waking abruptly from sleep with a sensation of choking or gasping for air
- Loud/intense snoring
- Not achieving a refreshed sleep
- Sleepy during the day
- A feeling of tiredness and general fatigue
- Problems concentrating and focusing
- Waking up with the need to go to the bathroom several times a night
A person who suffers from sleep apnea may wake up multiple times per hour, but these interruptions to restful sleep are generally extremely brief, so most patients do not remember waking up. Unfortunately, they will likely feel the effects of missing out on a full night’s sleep, which can include forgetfulness, drowsiness, and more.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, please contact our office for more information or to schedule an appointment.
What Are the Health Risks of Sleep Apnea?
The strain on the body caused by OSA interferes with quality sleep and can cause irregular heart rhythms. The reduced flow of oxygen can negatively affect the proper function of vital organs, leading to a variety of issues—some of which can be very serious, or even fatal. For more information, please visit our page on sleep apnea health risks. Familiarizing yourself with the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea (listed above) can help lead to a diagnosis, ultimately helping you obtain appropriate treatment to prevent the negative effects of OSA.
Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect men, women, and children—regardless of age or ethnicity. However, there are certain factors that can increase an individual’s potential for having OSA. These can include:
- Nasal obstruction (due to a deviated septum, allergies, or other sinus issues)
- Large neck (men: over 17 inches; women: over 16 inches)
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Large tongue and/or tonsils
Additionally, individuals who are overweight are often at risk of developing OSA, since excess fat and tissues can become an obstruction to the airway when sleeping. Men also tend to be at a higher risk than women, although cases of sleep apnea are typically more common for all individuals over the age of 40.
What Are the Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea and Snoring?
There are many technologically advanced sleep apnea and snoring treatments available that can help patients affected by these common conditions. They include non-surgical treatment options such as customized oral appliances that can be worn while sleeping to help maintain a normal flow of air through oral passages, as well as a laser therapy known as NightLase®. Additionally, the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is an option for many patients, as well as a surgical procedure called somnoplasty. Our dentist can explore these options with you and help determine the most ideal treatment for your concerns.
Pediatric Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea does not just affect adults. In fact, a considerable percentage of children and adolescents suffer from sleep apnea, snoring, and other sleep disorders that can have serious effects on their health, behavior, and ability to obtain a full and restful sleep.
For additional information on pediatric sleep apnea, please visit our sleep apnea in children page to learn about signs that may indicate a sleep disorder, as well as treatment options designed to help reduce the risks and symptoms associated with sleep apnea.
Sleep Deprivation Facts
Loss of sleep can have a significant and debilitating effect on one’s daily life and general health. Learning about the effects and signs of sleep deprivation, what constitutes a “normal” sleeping pattern, and other facts about achieving a good night’s sleep can help individuals recognize whether their sleeping habits are having a negative impact on their health.
Online Sleep Evaluation
Are you excessively tired during the day? Do you snore? Have you ever had the sense that you may be experiencing breathing pauses while sleeping? Take our quick Online Sleep Evaluation to let us know, and we’ll be happy to talk more with you about potential solutions.View the Online Sleep Evaluation
If you have additional questions, or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact Stamford Sleep Solutions today.