Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition with which most people are completely unfamiliar. Interestingly, estimates are that this condition affects nearly 30 million Americans, and these are only the diagnosed cases. It is also more commonly diagnosed than adult diabetes and asthma. Of the three different types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the most common amongst both men and women. About one-quarter of men aged 30-60 suffer from poor sleep due to obstructive sleep apnea, with about 9 percent of women experiencing this condition. The major concerns surrounding sleep apnea are an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, and heart failure.
Apnea, by definition, means “without breath.” Sleep apnea, then, is a term that describes the absence of breathing during sleep. Of the various signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, the pauses in breath characterize the condition. In our Cincinnati practice, sleep apnea may be detected simply from an off-handed comment from a patient about how he or she cannot seem to wake up during daytime hours, even if eight or more hours are spent in bed.
The reason for extreme daytime sleepiness is that restorative sleep is lacking. A person with sleep apnea may snore loudly, and believe that this is the cause of sleepiness. However, the true cause is the disruption that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen during 10-plus second apnea episodes, which may occur several hundred times in a night.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when, in sleep, the muscles that surround the airway collapse inward, blocking the flow of air. In order to restore breathing, the brain delivers a jolt of adrenaline into the bloodstream, which increases the heart rate and breathing, forcing the muscles of the body to wake up. The sleeper, however, rarely fully wakes. Additional signs of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring stops suddenly
- Gasping or choking sounds occur
- Sleeper moves suddenly or thrashes
- Morning headaches
- Mouth is dry upon waking
- Memory and concentration are poor
- Irritability or moodiness is persistent
- Anxiety or depression develops or worsens
The lack of sleep that occurs from obstructive sleep apnea is different from snoring or insomnia in the fact that the brain is repeatedly deprived of oxygen throughout the night – night after night. The stress on the body affected by obstructive sleep apnea can lead to sexual dysfunction, high blood pressure, relationship issues at home and at work, a risk for vehicle accidents or work injuries, and several other health concerns.
There are both medical and dental treatments used to restore sleep in those diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. At West Chester Dental Group, sleep apnea patients find relief from symptoms with the use of a custom designed oral appliance that comfortably keeps the airway open during sleep.
To learn more about oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, contact our office today.
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