Sleep apnea is as much a sleeping disorder as it is a dental concern, and with more than 18 million American adults suffering from it, it poses issues such as fatigue and brain fog to more serious conditions like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. So, how do you know if you have sleep apnea?

At the Alaska Center for Oral + Facial Surgery (AOFS), sleep apnea is one of the many areas in which we specialize. Some common treatments for sleep apnea are splints and CPAP machines, but at AOFS we do things a little differently. Follow along in today’s post as we examine what sleep apnea is, how it’s treated, and how our clinic takes an approach that yields better outcomes!

What Is Sleep Apnea?

You’ve likely heard ads about sleep apnea, but do you actually know what it is? Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that presents as abrupt patterns of breathing that suddenly stop and start again — there are three types of sleep apnea including:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Central sleep apnea
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome

At AOFS, we focus on and treat obstructive sleep apnea. This form is the most common and happens as a result of the throat muscles relaxing. While it can be difficult to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea because the symptoms can present themselves as other forms of the disorder, the familiar signs and symptoms include:

  • Loud, audible snoring
  • Gasping for air during sleep    
  • Your breathing stops during sleep (witnessed by another)
  • Dry mouth upon awakening
  • Headache in the morning
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Memory and attention issues

If you think you have sleep apnea, see a medical professional for a proper diagnosis.

What are the causes of obstructive sleep apnea?

This form of sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in your throat relax and because the throat muscles support the soft palate, this effectively narrows or blocks the airway and lowers the oxygen level in your blood. Your brain soon realizes that you’re not getting enough air and jolts your body awake to reopen the pathway. With obstructive sleep apnea it may be such a succinct moment, it may not be remembered. Sometimes choking or gasping may occur, and this can repeatedly happen throughout the night five to 30 times per hour — no wonder you feel tired the next day! Your body is constantly experiencing a breathing cessation which makes it extremely difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

We’ve only just begun in our exploration of sleep apnea. We’re going to leave you hanging and pick up our conversation about sleep apnea in part two!

Sleep apnea, as we’ve discovered, is both a sleep disorder and oral condition where the soft palate is blocked by the relaxing of throats muscles, which causes short periods of the inability to breathe. There are three different kinds of sleep apnea, but at AOFS we specifically treat obstructive sleep apnea. There are many signs and symptoms exclusive to sleep apnea including snoring, morning headaches, and brain fog.

For more information about sleep apnea and how AOFS can help you, connect with our office today!