When you have sleep apnea, it means that you temporarily stop breathing while you sleep. While it is a serious medical condition that can occur as often as 30 times in a single hour, people are often unaware that they have it.
Sleep apnea can cause you to wake from a sound sleep in a panic because it feels like you are choking or gasping for air. Since this may only last a few seconds, you may forget all about it in the morning. However, the interruption in breathing can last up to two to three minutes in some people. When this happens often enough, sleep apnea changes from a mild annoyance to an emergency that could threaten your life. The reason for this is that sleep apnea disrupts the balance between carbon dioxide and oxygen present in your bloodstream.
Categories and Symptoms of Different Types of Sleep Apnea
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 20 percent of people with this medical condition have a type known as central sleep apnea. This type usually occurs due to faulty brain signaling. Basically, your brain forgets to send the message to breathe as you sleep. The result is an interruption in breathing that can happens several times per night but typically only lasts for a few seconds each time.
People with central sleep apnea often have an underlying health condition that causes it. The most common ones include:
- Arthritis of the cervical spine
- Cheyne-Stokes breathing pattern, which means you already have weak breathing
- Congestive heart failure
- Encephalitis, which means brain inflammation
- Heart attack
- Parkinson’s disease
- Surgery or radiation on the spine
Obstructive sleep apnea is the far more common of the two subtypes. This condition occurs because of a partial or complete block in your upper airways. The blockage means that your chest muscles and diaphragm must work extra hard to take air into your lungs. When your breathing resumes, you typically make a grunting, snorting, or gasping sound in your sleep although you probably won’t be aware of this. Unfortunately, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to an irregular heartbeat because it reduces the flow of oxygen to your heart.
Even though shortness of breath while you sleep might not wake you up, pay attention to how you feel during the day for clues that could indicate obstructive sleep apnea. Feeling restless during your sleep for several nights in a row could be a symptom as well. Some other common symptoms associated with it include:
- Concentration difficulty, depression, forgetfulness, or irritability
- Daytime fatigue
- Difficulty waking up in the morning
- Dry mouth upon waking
- Night sweats
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sore throat upon waking
If you sleep with someone else, it’s likely that he or she will notice symptoms of either type of sleep apnea before you do.
How We Treat Sleep Apnea at Oasis Prosthodontics
We encourage you to schedule an appointment with Dr. Marina Funtik as soon as possible if you recognize any of the symptoms of sleep apnea listed above. It’s possible that changing some lifestyle habits could help reduce your symptoms. Quitting smoking, losing weight if you’re overweight, and reducing the amount of tranquilizers or alcohol you consume are all things you can do to increase the likelihood of successful treatment.
In addition to her many dental credentials, Dr. Funtik is a certified Airway Prosthodontist. She has received extensive training from leading sleep apnea experts across the country. This makes her uniquely qualified to recognize even subtle signs of abnormal breathing. She will complete a comprehensive evaluation of your condition and recommend the most appropriate course of treatment.
Wearing a sleep mask or a special dental appliance during sleep is the first step in treating sleep apnea for many patients. The sleep mask forces your airways to remain open while you’re sleeping so you don’t stop breathing. If you find it uncomfortable to wear a sleep mask, a dental device that applies gentle pressure to push your jaw forward might be a more appropriate form of treatment. The appliance also works to keep your tongue from blocking any of your airway passages.
People who fail to find relief from either of these treatments may wish to consider corrective surgery that forces the tongue to remain in place. Of course, every patient is unique and these are just some of the possible treatment methods used by Dr. Funtik. Please contact Oasis Prosthodontics today to schedule your sleep apnea consultation.