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Sleep apnea is a condition which involves breathing that repeatedly stops and starts. You might have this sleep disorder if you snore loudly and feel exhausted even after getting enough sleep. There are three types of apnea: central, obstructive, and complex. This article will discuss them and how your dentist can help you.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain is not sending the muscles that control breathing the right signals. It is less common than obstructive apnea, which occurs when the throat muscles relax. When someone has both kinds, it’s called complex sleep apnea syndrome, a condition that requires emergency assistance.

Symptoms

The symptoms of central and obstructive sleep apneas can overlap, which makes it hard to determine which type dominates. The most common symptoms and signs include gasping for air during sleep, loud snoring, waking up with a dry mouth, and difficulty staying asleep. Although snoring can indicate an underlying issue, not everyone who has this condition snores. People also report morning headache, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, and difficulty paying attention.

Risk Factors

Sleep apnea can affect children and adults. Common risk factors include obesity, male gender, family history, and being older. People with a bigger neck circumference tend to have narrower airways, which increase the risk. Some people inherit constricted airways in the form of a narrow throat. In children, tonsils can block the airway. Sedatives (sleeping pills), alcohol, and tranquilizers all exacerbate existing apnea because they relax the muscles in your throat.

Do you have difficulty breathing through your nose because of an allergy or an anatomical problem? You face a higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Finally, non-smokers are three times less likely than smokers to develop the condition.

Causes

The muscles in the back of the throat support the soft palate and the uvula. This is a piece of tissue hanging from the palate. They also support the tonsils, the tongue, and the side walls of the throat. As you fall asleep, you breathe more deeply. As you breathe in, your airway narrows or closes. This limits the air supply and you wake up “gasping” for air. This is the brain’s way of getting you to reopen your airway. People often don’t remember being roused from sleep this way because it’s very brief.

You might choke or snort in your sleep. This can happen as often as 30 times an hour, keeping you from getting REM sleep. REM sleep is the deepest, most restful sleep phase.

The above describes causes of obstructive apnea, the most common apnea type. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the breathing muscles signals. As a result, you stop breathing. You might awaken out of breath or find it hard to fall or stay asleep.

Complications

Sleep apnea leads to daytime fatigue, drowsiness, and irritability. It can also cause high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems. Because you don’t get enough air, the oxygen levels in your blood suddenly drop. This strains your heart and elevates blood pressure. Obstructive sleep apnea has been shown to increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and arrhythmia (an abnormal heartbeat).

How Can your Dentist Help?

Dental devices have become a popular alternative to invasive treatments of sleep apnea in recent years. TruBlu Dentistry’s device “Silent Nite” is designed for people who snore or have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. It is customized to fit the unique shape of the patient’s mouth. The device moves the lower jaw forward to create more space in the airway.

Be proud of your smile.