Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes a person to actually stop breathing during sleep. The interruptions to breathing can happen up to several hundred times a night. Incredibly, people who suffer from sleep apnea very rarely know that they have the condition, with as many as 90 per cent being completely unaware. It is only when they have been told by a partner of family member that they become aware of the condition.
Sleep apnea is sometimes confused with, or passed of as, snoring but this is not the case. Snoring is the noise caused by breathing during sleep where as sleep apnea is the actual cessation of breathing that causes a patient to emit choking noises.
There are two main types of sleep apnea, the most common of which is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea, also known as OSA. This occurs when airways are blocked by collapsing soft tissue at the back of the throat, during sleep. The other type of sleep apnea is far less common. It occurs not as the result of physiological condition like OSA, but occurs when the brain stops sending signals to the muscles to breathe due to a malfunction in the respiratory control centre.
Sleep apnea can affect any patient of any age but there are a number of factors that increase risk. Being male and overweight increases a patient’s risk of suffering from the condition. As does being over the age of forty. Having large tonsils and a genetic disposition to the condition can all be contributory factors.
While sleep apnea itself is not considered to dangerous it can be the underlying cause behind a number of other medical concerns. Hypertension, strokes and even heart failure can all be caused in some part by sleep apnea, but only in tandem with other pre-existing circumstances. Recent research has also shown that children with sleep apnea frequently under perform at school and in general activities.
Dentists play an important part in the treatment of sleep apnea. Patients respond differently to different treatments but the most successful treatments are dental appliances such as lower jaw adjusters and other oral devices. It is important to correctly diagnose sleep apnea, so if you think you may be suffering from the condition consult a Central Leeds dentist and ask about treatment.