The Danger of Ignoring Sleep Apnea

Everyone experiences those days where they’re a little groggy and irritable. If those days start to happen more frequently, if you wake up each morning with a headache and dry mouth, and/or if your partner complains of your snoring, you may have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a common and potentially life-threatening condition in which you briefly and sporadically stop breathing throughout the night. At Lansdowne Orthodontics, we want to help you understand the seriousness of this condition, the impact on your health  and how we can help you get a restful night’s sleep.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three main types of sleep apnea. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which happens when the muscles in your throat relax, allowing the fat tissue in your mouth and throat to obstruct or block your airway.

The other two less common forms of sleep apnea include central sleep apnea, when the brain does not send the right signals to control your breathing, and complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is a combination of both of the other two types.

Why Sleep Apnea is Dangerous

When your airway is blocked, you stop breathing temporarily. This pause in breathing can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute. Fortunately, your brain makes sure you start breathing again, but the stopping and starting of your breathing can happen five to 30 times an hour. This interrupted breathing does not make for a good night’s sleep.

Sometimes sleep apnea results in snoring, snorting, or gasping for air. You don’t remember these bouts of waking, but your body feels their effects in the morning and throughout the day. With the frequent sleep interruptions, you can’t get enough deep, restful sleep to function properly. One of the first signs of sleep apnea is excessive daytime drowsiness.

Without a good night’s sleep, your ability to focus and think clearly is impaired, as is your driving and decision-making ability. People with sleep apnea are more likely to:

  • Experience automobile-related accidents
  • Experience work-related accidents
  • Suffer from such health issues as high blood pressure, heart problems, and Type 2 diabetes

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it’s important to treat it.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Lifestyle changes are the first step to treating sleep apnea. These changes include:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Stress Reduction
  • Exercise program
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Consult with your physician about avoiding medications like sedatives that can relax the central nervous system

If these lifestyle changes are not enough to manage your sleep apnea, please contact us at Lansdowne Orthodontics and Navin Hukmani, DDS, who may recommend one of the following:

A CPAP machine

A CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is a breathing device. It includes a mask to wear over your nose and mouth and a tube that connects to a device that blows air into your lungs.

A mouth appliance

A custom-made mouth appliance can support your jaw and keep your airway open while you sleep. This appliance also helps reduce the negative effects of grinding or clenching your teeth.

Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment

If you have significant jaw or teeth alignment issues causing your sleep apnea, comprehensive  orthodontic treatment may address the issues that are contributing to the constriction of your airways.

To find out more about sleep apnea, call Dr. Hukmani at one of our two Virginia locations, in Leesburg or South Riding, or make an appointment online.

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