Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the individual will actually stop breathing for periods of seconds to minutes during the night. This could happen hundreds of times during the course of a night. While sleep apnea has certain symptoms, many people who have sleep apnea go undiagnosed. If you have sleep apnea, a diagnosis is crucial so that you can receive treatment. Who is at risk for sleep apnea?
Men with a Family History
Men are much more likely than women to suffer from sleep apnea, although it’s not strictly known why this is. Men who have a family history of sleep apnea are even more likely, as certain genetic factors may contribute to the disorder. Older men (age 60 and above) are particularly at risk. Men who have a family history of sleep apnea and experience any of the symptoms including loud snoring, headaches, dry mouth, and daytime fatigue should see their doctor or dentist to determine if they have sleep apnea.
People with Small-Structured Airways
People with airways in their sinuses that are smaller than normal may be at risk for sleep apnea. These small-structured airways can create an increased risk for congestion, particularly if you suffer from allergies, colds, or sinus issues, and especially if you smoke. Without treatment, sleep apnea has the potential to damage your quality of life and hinder your health into old age. Untreated sleep apnea could result in high blood pressure, an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, and diabetes.
People with Certain Lifestyle Factors
There are certain lifestyle factors that will increase your risk for sleep apnea. They include:
– Obesity. People who are overweight are more at risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a type of sleep apnea that occurs because excess tissue of the mouth and throat can relax during sleep and cause airways to become blocked.
– Smoking. People who make may be more at risk for sleep apnea, as the nicotine can cause relaxation among the muscles that keep your airways accessible.
– Alcohol. Alcohol and other sedatives such as sleeping medications can also relax the muscles in your airway.
Lifestyle factors are things that you can change. Take advantage of the power you have over your health and minimize your risk for sleep apnea by exercising, quit smoking if you’re a smoker, and decrease your alcohol intake.
What Can You Do?
Dentists are actually often the first people who detect there may be a problem with sleep apnea. It’s always best to be open with your physicians about what symptoms you’re experiencing. Your dentist can refer you to a specialist to confirm whether or not you have sleep apnea. If you do have sleep apnea, your dentist may be able to help you with some lifestyle changes or fit you with a dental appliance. A dental appliance can help reposition your jaw to help increase airflow and alleviate your sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that should not go undiagnosed—it can be life-threatening and damaging to your health. If you’re at risk or are experiencing symptoms, speak with your dentist or doctor today to get the treatment you need to stay healthy.