Do you snore? Do you have difficulty staying awake behind the wheel? Does your child have ADHD? Do you grind your teeth at night? All these signs could lead to a common problem called sleep apnea. You or your child could be one of the 22 million people in the United States who suffer from sleep apnea. What is even more astounding is that 80% of people with sleep apnea have not been formally diagnosed.
There are three types of sleep apnea and they include obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when there is blockage of the airway, such as a tongue collapsing into the back of the mouth. Central sleep apnea is when there is no blockage of the airway but the brain fails to signal the muscles that are responsible for breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the two conditions described above.
Patients with sleep apnea that goes undetected or untreated, are at risk for the following. High blood pressure and the risk of getting a stroke can be caused by the lack of oxygen one is getting during sleep. Also, there may be an increase of weight due to chemistry imbalances compromising your metabolism. That weight gain can lead to type 2 diabetes. When one has sleep apnea they struggle to breathe air in when they sleep, leading to a poor sleep quality. In turn, this can result in daytime sleepiness and is one of the leading causes of car accidents.
In children, other symptoms may manifest from sleep apnea. They include hyperactivity, attention deficit, throat infections, bedwetting, doing poorly in school, tooth grinding and headaches in the morning.
There is help, and it may involve several specialists including your orthodontist to get you on your way to better sleep to improve your health. A sleep doctor can diagnose your condition with a sleep test and can do a sleep study in your home or a hospital setting to determine how bad your sleep apnea is. Also, they can prescribe a CPAP, which has come a long way and are much smaller, quieter and comfortable today. Frequently, an ENT is involved to assess adenoids and tonsils as a physical obstruction to your airway and, if they are part of the culprit, they can be removed. In the next article, I will talk about how your dentist and/or orthodontist can play an important role in helping you treat your sleep apnea.