If You Have Sleep Apnea, Your Spouse Does Too
At Fort Worth Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, we meet a lot of patients who have trouble with their sleep pattern.
They may feel exhausted, even after eight hours of sleep. Some may wake up several times in the middle of the night without knowing why.
Many of these people lose sleep because either they, or a loved one, snore. Snoring can have several causes, and may indicate a more serious problem, called obstructive sleep apnea.
Dr. Nikki Green can develop a treatment plan to help you stop snoring and get a good night’s rest.
To learn more about snoring treatments, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Green, call our Ft. Worth dental office today.
What causes snoring?
Snoring is caused by the vibrations of your soft and/or hard tissue palates; these vibrations occur because of increasingly narrow air passages. When air passes through these passages, a “flapping” sound occurs because the tissue is soft in nature.
Surgery on the palate to alleviate the snoring is not always successful, because the sound may originate from the tissues in the upper airway, rather than the soft palate.
Men tend to have more issues with snoring than women, but this common condition can actually affect just about anyone, especially overweight people.
While not always a serious condition itself, snoring can indicate more serious and dangerous health problems. Loved ones who share a room or bed with someone who snores will experience a disruption in their own sleep patterns as well, causing them to feel tired and inattentive throughout the day.
Some of the most common causes of snoring include:
- Smoking – Smoking can cause the membranes in the throat and nose to become irritated, and they may block the patient’s airways, causing him to snore.
- Alcohol – Drinking alcohol leads to a calming effect in the brain. This causes the brain to relax all of the muscles in the body, including those in the back of the throat, which can lead to a blockage of the airways.
- Obesity – Obese patients may have fat in their neck that puts pressure on the sides of the airways.
- Sleeping Position – People who sleep on their back have a greater likelihood of snoring, as the effects of gravity causes the throat muscles to fall back and block the airways.
- Obstructed Nasal Passages – Allergies or a sinus infection may cause a blockage in your nasal passages, which may only cause you to snore temporarily. A blockage may also stem from a deviated septum or nasal polyps.
- Poor Muscle Tone of the Tongue and Throat – A deep sleep, some sleeping pills, and even natural aging can lead to these muscles relaxing too much and falling back into your airway.
- Excess Throat Tissue – Snoring can occur in children when they exhibit enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Patients who have issues with obesity may have problems with bulky throat tissue as well.
- Sleep Apnea – This dangerous disease can cause the patient to not only snore, but stop breathing altogether for up to a minute while sleeping.
Loud snorers may have a more serious case of blocked air passages, known as obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). In these cases, the blockage of air is so great that no air can get through, causing repeated awakenings throughout the night.
Obstructive sleep apnea can contribute or lead to many other conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and depression, so it is important to be diagnosed by a medical professional if you experience any sleep-related symptoms.
Snoring does not always signal that a person has sleep apnea, but it does represent one of the most common symptoms of the condition. Patients should watch for other symptoms that may also indicate a problem with sleep apnea.
The patient may need another person to confirm some of these symptoms. Common obstructive sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Pauses that take place while snoring, followed by episodes of choking or gasping
- Periods of up to a minute when the patient stops breathing
- Extreme fatigue, leading to sleepiness while at work or when driving
- Irritability, depression and mood swings
- Headaches in the morning
- A sore throat or dry mouth when you wake up
- Difficulty staying asleep
Dr. Green can provide solutions for patients who experience regular snoring and mild or moderate sleep apnea.
If, however, you are diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, you will need to turn to a general practitioner for treatment. If you feel unsure as to whether or not you suffer from sleep apnea, most general practitioners can perform a sleep study.
This will involve either spending a night at a sleep center, while doctors observe your vital signs and sleep patterns, or a unit that you can take home and wear while you sleep in your own bed. The unit will record the same information as the medical personnel at the sleep center.
If diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may have several options for treatment. Patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea will typically use a prescription CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or APAP (Automatic Positive Airway Pressure) machine when they sleep.
The CPAP machine includes a mask that the patient wears while sleeping, and provides a continuous flow of air at a rate of pressure determined by the prescribing doctor, keeping the airways from collapsing and allowing the patient to breathe normally while sleeping.
The APAP machine works the same way, but it includes a low range and high range setting for the airflow. The machine senses subtle changes in the patient’s breathing during sleep and adjusts the airflow appropriately.
Many patients find the CPAP and APAP machines too bulky and do not like wearing a mask while they sleep. That is why, for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea, Dr. Green offers another option.
Dr. Green can provide therapy for her patients with snoring problems, including mild to moderate sleep apnea. Therapy may include something as simple as changing the patient’s sleep patterns, or may require more aggressive therapy with dental or oral devices.
The doctor will discuss the many devices available, assessing their pros and cons, and help the patient choose the device that best fits his needs. Of the available options, the mandibular advancement device and the tongue retaining device tend to work for most patients.
The mandibular advancement device looks like a mouth guard you would wear for sports. When worn, it forces the lower jaw down and slightly forward. This helps keep the airway open to prevent breathing problems.
Tongue retaining devices hold the tongue in the correct position to keep the airway open. They require regular dental visits because they need periodic adjustments. The doctor will custom design each patient’s device to fit their needs and patients will finally find the rest they seek.
Snoring Health Risks
If you or your loved one snore habitually, you might be at risk for serious health issues. If your snoring causes you to lose sleep, you may suffer from fatigue and drowsiness during the day.
This can lead to a decrease in your work production or even a car accident. The most serious health risk associated with snoring is sleep apnea. The condition can cause you to experience extreme fatigue due to frequent waking and a sleep pattern that keeps you in light sleep, robbing you of the more restorative deep sleep.
It can cause dangerous interruptions in your breathing that can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more, and it puts excess strain on your heart, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.
Patients should take habitual snoring very seriously and get help as soon as possible to avoid serious health risks.
Call Us for More Information
To learn more about snoring, the health risks it can cause, and solutions Dr. Green can offer, contact our Ft. Worth dental office today.