Obstructive sleep apnea now afflicts at least 25 million adults in the U.S, according to the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project.
Obstructive sleep apnea can prevent you and your partner from getting the rest you need to stay awake and alert throughout the day. In addition to not getting restful sleep, sleep apnea also increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression.
People develop sleep apnea for all kinds of reasons, from weight and age to habits and lifestyle choices, but your dentist may be able to treat the problem and alleviate your symptoms.
Let’s examine the causes of sleep apnea and learning about sleep apnea therapy and snoring remedies because before you can find a sleep apnea cure you will need to identify the cause.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Are You at Risk of Having or Developing Sleep Apnea?
Size and Weight
As is often the case with health conditions, your size and weight play a role in your vulnerability to sleep apnea. While anyone may suffer from sleep apnea, the risk is substantially greater for those who are overweight. This is due in part to fat deposits positioned around the upper airway that can keep air from flowing freely through your airways and make it more difficult to breathe.
Obese individuals are 4 times more likely to develop sleep apnea that people who are at a normal weight. This makes weight a significant risk factor for this condition, although not all individuals who need sleep apnea treatment are overweight. Losing weight can often be effective in reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Have you been told that you have a narrowed airway? The size of your neck may impact the size of your airways; thicker necks tend to have narrower airways, making it more difficult for air to pass through your system. Some people are genetically predisposed to narrow airways, and others may suffer from sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils that block the airway.
Also, men who have a neck circumference of 17 inches or greater and women with a neck circumference of 15 inches or greater can have narrower airways and have a higher risk of sleep apnea.
Age and Gender
Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, which is a condition that causes someone to periodically stop breathing while they sleep. Sleep apnea can increase your risk for some health problems and cause you to get nonrestorative sleep. Some of the factors that influence how prone you are to sleep apnea are out of your control, such as age and gender.
Older people tend to be substantially more vulnerable to the effects of sleep apnea, and males are typically at greater risk than females. Women who are overweight or post-menopausal, however, may experience an elevated risk of sleep apnea.
Family History / Genetics
Does your family have a history of sleep apnea? If so, you may be genetically predisposed to developing sleep apnea even if none of the other commons causes apply to you. Sleep apnea is a heritable condition and other inherited traits that increase your risk include obesity and physical features such as a recessed jaw.
Do you smoke? If so, then you have 3 times the risk of needing sleep apnea treatment than people who have never smoked. This may be because smoking might increase fluid retention and inflammation in the upper airway.
Smoking cigarettes, abusing alcohol, and using certain types of drugs like sedatives and tranquilizers can all have a multitude of effects on your health, and they may increase your risk for sleep apnea. The muscle relaxation that occurs from alcohol and sedatives can cause the muscles of your throat to relax and increase your risk of sleep apnea.
What to do If You Have Sleep Apnea?
If you suspect you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea, the first step is seeking a diagnosis so you can begin treatment. Take our quiz to assess your risk and determine if you are experiencing the most common signs of sleep apnea. Next, schedule a sleep test with us or a sleep physician in your area to get tested.
Finally, if you are diagnosed with sleep apena there are many treatment options available including alternatives to traditional CPAP machines for treatment. At Smiles@Southcenter we offer the Moses® oral appliance to help our patients who suffer from sleep apnea. Your local dentist may also offer oral appliances that are more comfortable than CPAP to treat your sleep apnea.
About the Author – Dr. Thuy Nguyen, DDS
Dr. Thuy Nguyen DDS in Tukwila, WA holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and received a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington. In 2011, she also completed the Progressive Orthodontic Program. She is known for her fine work and a friendly and caring attitude. Her enthusiasm for dentistry is contagious, as she designs and improves smile after smile. Dr. Nguyen is bilingual in English and Vietnamese. She maintains memberships to the Seattle King County Dental Association, The Washington State Dental Association, and The American Dental Association.
Do I Have Sleep Apnea? American Sleep Apnea Association – https://www.sleepapnea.org/
Rising Prevalence of Sleep Apnea in the U.S. Threatens Public Health. American Academy of Sleep Medicine, September 29, 2014. https://aasm.org/rising-prevalence-of-sleep-apnea-in-u-s-threatens-public-health/