What Is Sleep Apnea?

Friday, March 24, 2023 - 6:56pm

A man and a woman sleeping in bed

Waking suddenly or with a feeling of choking, pressure, or gasping for air can be a frightening experience. These are key signs that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, a condition in which your breathing stops for short periods during sleep.

Watching for the warning signs of sleep apnea can help you to avoid some serious complications that can be caused or worsened by this medical condition. At Elite Dental, our team will work with you to determine what may be causing your symptoms and to provide proven treatments for sleep apnea in Arlington.  

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

  Understanding what symptoms are associated with sleep apnea can help you to determine whether you need specialized treatment for this condition. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of apnea-related issues are listed here:

  • Fatigue and sleepiness are common signs that you or someone you love may not be getting enough restful sleep. If you frequently doze off during the day or feel tired or sleepy during your waking hours, you may wish to be checked for sleep apnea.
  • Moodiness and irritability can result from a lack of restful sleep. If you often have unexplained mood changes or are consistently irritated by relatively minor issues, sleep disorders or conditions like sleep apnea may be at least partly to blame for these issues.
  • Loud or intermittent snoring is often a sign of sleep apnea. In some cases, the patients we see at Elite Dental may not have any idea that they snore or stop breathing in the night unless they have been told by others. If you are concerned about the possibility of sleep apnea affecting your health, a sleep apnea screening could be the right choice for you.
  • Changes in brain function are not always obvious immediately. If you feel that your level of mental performance is declining, consult your primary care doctor to determine if sleep apnea could be to blame for these issues.
  • Headaches that occur primarily when you first awaken are also warning signs that sleep apnea could be affecting your health.

The most common way in which people find out they have sleep apnea is through the intervention of friends or family members who observe the brief stoppages of breathing during the night. At Elite Dental, we work with our patients to provide the most accurate diagnosis for issues affecting teeth, gums, and oral health.  

What Are the Two Types of Sleep Apnea?

Central sleep apnea occurs when signals between the brain and the diaphragm become scrambled or missed. In healthy individuals, the nervous system triggers the diaphragm to breathe in on a regular basis without requiring conscious effort.

This allows you to continue to breathe during sleep or while you are unconscious. In central sleep apnea, the signals that trigger breathing do not function properly, causing prolonged periods of stopped breathing for some individuals.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this condition and is generally caused by the partial collapse of the airway during sleep or deep relaxation. The soft tissues of the airway can sometimes create blockages that cause loud snoring or gasping for breath when oxygen levels become too low.

Understanding the most common risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea can sometimes allow patients at Elite Dental to control this condition more effectively.    

What Are the Top Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

A number of factors can increase your chance of developing sleep apnea. Some of the most common contributing factors to this condition are listed here:

  • Excess tissue and fat on the neck or other areas of the chest can sometimes contribute to temporary airway collapse during relaxation. This is most common in people who are carrying around a little extra weight.
  • Swollen tonsils or adenoids can also be contributing factors in the development of sleep apnea. In some cases, removing these enlarged glands can be a practical step toward eliminating issues with sleep apnea conditions.
  • People with very narrow airways are more likely to experience episodes of sleep apnea than those with wider airways. This can sometimes be indicated by the circumference of the neck of the individual. People with narrow or slender necks may be at higher risk of sleep apnea issues.
  • Both gender and age play a part in determining whether you are at risk for sleep apnea. Approximately three times as many men as women develop the condition. Sleep apnea also is more prevalent in older individuals.

The dentists at Elite Dental can help you determine whether you or a loved one is currently experiencing sleep apnea episodes or if you may be at risk for this condition in the future. We work with you to find the best dental solutions for sleep apnea issues.  

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is usually treated by your primary care physician in an outpatient or clinical environment. For obstructive sleep apnea, however, our dental team can often provide practical solutions that will assist you in managing this condition effectively:

  • Dental mouthguards for sleep apnea are designed to move your lower jaw into a position that keeps your airway open. These dental appliances are one of the first lines of defense against obstructive sleep apnea issues.
  • Surgical interventions to remove excess tissue are available from oral and maxillofacial surgeons and can provide long-term relief from the symptoms of sleep apnea in some patients.

Your doctor may also recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP machines filter and pressurize air that is then delivered through a mask to your nose and mouth.

The pressurized air is usually adequate to keep the airway open during sleep, which can result in more restful slumber and fewer interruptions because of sleep apnea episodes.

To learn more about the sleep apnea treatment options available from Elite Dental, you can schedule an appointment with our team by calling us at (703) 650-9441. We are here to help you enjoy the highest quality of life and to treat sleep apnea in Arlington.