Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. When you have obstructive sleep apnea, their airway is partially or completely blocked while they’re sleeping. Since the body receives reduced oxygen to the brain with OSA, you’re usually forced awake in order to breathe properly. After you fall back asleep again, the obstruction resumes. People who have sleep apnea often aren’t aware of it until they start experiencing symptoms. How does sleep apnea impact your health?
OSA Increases Your Risk for Chronic Disease
As a result of the body being woken up so often during the night (as few as five and as many as thirty or more times every night), obstructive sleep apnea causes the body undue stress. Therefore, people with sleep apnea are more at risk for chronic disease or health conditions such as:
High blood pressure
Heart disease (therefore increasing your risk for heart attacks and stroke)
Sexual dysfunction (may manifest as erectile dysfunction in males)
Type 2 diabetes
Decrease in cognitive abilities, such as thinking or remembering
Fatigue during the daytime, which may result in accidents or injuries
In addition to causing the body stress, the decreased levels of oxygen in the body because of trouble breathing can cause these health problems as well. Not to mention not getting enough sleep or being constantly disturbed during your sleep—whether or not you’re aware of it—makes for poor health.
Risk Factors and Symptoms of OSA
More than 25 million American adults have sleep apnea! You’re more likely to have sleep apnea if you:
Are overweight or obese
Have a family history of sleep apnea
Smoke or drink alcohol, especially frequently
People who have obstructive sleep apnea typically snore, may be extremely tired during the day, wake up with a dry mouth or a headache, or even have difficulty focusing on tasks throughout the day. If you find yourself waking often during the night gasping, experiencing a decreased sex drive, or have unexplained mood changes, schedule a visit with your doctor to see if you could be suffering from OSA.
What Can You Do?
Many people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea can benefit from oral sleep appliances. Often, dentists are among the first health care professionals that notice the signs of sleep apnea. This is because their patients may experience dry mouth from mouth breathing or snoring, therefore decreasing saliva content and making an ideal environment for bad bacteria to cause enamel erosion, tooth decay, and bad breath!
Your dentist can recommend you to a sleep specialist to be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea. If you have a diagnosis, you can talk with your dentist about how an oral appliance can help. Since the airway is blocked during sleep in OSA, dental appliances can help keep the airway open and prevent collapse, therefore resulting in a more satisfying night’s sleep and making an effective treatment for OSA!
Talk to your primary care physician or your dentist about OSA. Your partner may have complained about your snoring, or you may feel fatigued and moody during the day without understanding why. OSA could be the cause of your health concerns and can lead to chronic health problems if not addressed. Find out if you suffer from OSA today!