Does snoring keep you or your bedmate from getting a good night's sleep? While snoring can interrupt your ability to get the restful sleep you need, it could be a much more severe problem than you realize. Many patients who snore, especially loud snorers, also have a condition known as sleep apnea.
Far too many patients with sleep apnea ignore it, not understanding the potentially serious consequences. Fortunately, the dental team at Hawkins Family Dentistry offers a simple fix that can help you continue breathing while you get the uninterrupted rest you need.
The word apnea comes from the Greek root of apnos, which means "without breathing." Sleep apnea, therefore, simply means that you go without breathing while you sleep.
Snoring occurs when the airway is not completely open. This usually happens when the muscles in the throat relax too much. The relaxation affects the tongue, soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth), adenoids, tonsils, and uvula, causing a narrowing or closing of the airway.
When your airway closes or narrows too much, the result is a cessation of breathing. After a pause in breathing anywhere from 10 to 90 seconds, the buildup of carbon dioxide reaches your brain. At this point, the brain rouses you from sleep so you will adjust and reopen your airway.
In mild cases of sleep apnea, this cycle may occur five times a night. In severe cases, however, it can occur as often as 30 times an hour.
Some patients (and their bedmates) understand that a snoring problem keeps them from getting the rest they need. However, for many patients, the interruptions in sleep are so brief, they do not perceive them. Often, they wake up thinking they slept well but wondering why they have a headache or feel so tired.
But even if a sleep apnea patient doesn't realize they continuously stop breathing as they sleep, their body does. The risks are more significant than lost sleep, and dangerous consequences could be taking place.
Each time you stop breathing, the oxygen level in your blood drops. Patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea can experience alarming decreases in oxygen. When inadequate oxygenation occurs over and over, it increases your blood pressure and causes a strain on your cardiovascular system.
Over time, chronic low levels of oxygen can lead to:
Less dangerous but still significant consequences can also occur:
Moreover, loud snoring can also disrupt your bedmate's sleeping patterns. And if your snoring is thunderous, it can affect everyone's sleeping patterns in the house.
If your loved ones don't get proper sleep, then they are at risk for some of the above complications as well. It can also disrupt your relationship with them if they feel frustration, resentment, or anger toward you.
At Hawkins Family Dentistry, we understand how disruptive and dangerous snoring can be, and we are here to help with effective solutions. Our dentists understand the intricacies of the entire mouth and jaw, including the airway. They will discuss your symptoms and perform a thorough examination.
Your treatment plan will be based on your individual needs and desires to help drastically reduce or eliminate snoring and sleep apnea. The simplest solution may only include lifestyle alterations. Some patients benefit greatly from a customized oral device that keeps your airway open.
Severe cases of sleep apnea may require CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). In these cases, Dr. Hawkins will refer you out to a sleep specialist.
Once your body starts getting the sleep it needs, it will begin to heal. Some symptoms, such as irritability, headaches, and problems with concentrating, may disappear immediately. Over time, however, proper levels of oxygen can restore cardiovascular damage and reduce blood pressure. Are you ready to start experiencing what a full night's rest feels like? Give us a call at 804-897-9800 today to schedule your appointment.