Sleep apnea is a disorder that prevents you from getting quality, restful sleep at night. It occurs when your breathing is obstructed, interrupting your natural sleep cycle. Why does this happen?
There are multiple causes of sleep apnea. If you think you may suffer from sleep apnea, it can help to determine the cause of your condition. Here are some possible causes of sleep apnea that can influence how it is treated.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The following are typical signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:
- Snoring. Snoring is caused by vibrations of the soft tissues of your mouth and throat as the air passes over them when you breathe. If you snore, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.
- Pauses in breathing. If you completely stop breathing for seconds at a time while you sleep, sleep apnea is most likely the culprit. Your spouse may alert you to this fact if they have noticed it. It may also be discovered through a sleep study.
- Waking up gasping for air. If you wake up feeling out of breath or gasping for air, it indicates that you were not breathing effectively while you were sleeping.
- Morning headaches. Lack of oxygen from breathing difficulties, as well as teeth grinding, can cause headaches. Teeth grinding and sleep apnea are often linked.
- Feeling tired. If you feel tired or doze off easily throughout the day despite getting what should be a sufficient amount of sleep, it is an indication that you are not getting quality sleep at night.
- Lack of energy. A general lack of energy is another indication that you are not sleeping well enough at night.
- Irritability. Being constantly tired can make you feel irritable, and you may find it difficult not to take it out on others around you.
- Poor immune system. Do you get sick often with colds or other viruses? Poor quality sleep can negatively affect your immune system, making you susceptible to contagious illnesses.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are a few possible causes of sleep apnea, including:
- Airway obstruction. When you lay down to sleep, especially on your back, the tissues of your mouth and throat can relax and collapse, obstructing your airway and causing you to stop breathing. As your mind registers the lack of oxygen, it rouses you from sleep enough to change positions and resume breathing. You may not even be aware of the waking or remember it, but it takes a toll on your sleep quality. Being overweight or obese is a contributing factor to obstructive sleep apnea, as well as smoking.
- Mental condition. Sleep apnea can be caused by a communication error between your brain and the muscles that control your breathing. When the brain doesn’t send the message to your diaphragm to breathe, you don’t take a breath. As with obstructive sleep apnea, your brain will eventually register the lack of oxygen and rouse you from sleep enough to consciously resume breathing.
- Combination. In some cases sleep apnea is caused by both obstruction to the airway and a mental condition preventing communication between the brain and your muscles.
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
The type of treatment for sleep apnea that will be effective for you depends on the cause of your condition:
- Custom oral appliance. An oral appliance can be custom made to fit your mouth. It respositions your tongue and jaw to prevent the tissues from sliding back toward your throat, which keeps your airway free from obstruction.
- CPAP machine. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) consists of a mask worn over the mouth and nose that is connected to a machine that blows a constant flow of air into your airway to keep it open.
- Lifestyle changes. Some patients have found relief of their sleep apnea symptoms by losing weight or quitting smoking.
Many patients have found that a custom oral appliance can provide relief of their sleep apnea symptoms. It is often preferred over CPAP because it is compact and comfortable for ease of use. However, if the condition is mental, a CPAP machine may be the only treatment option.
Kevin Jones DDS Provides Sleep Apnea Treatment
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of sleep apnea, Dr. Jones provides custom oral appliances to stop snoring and improve night time breathing. You shouldn’t have to go through life in a sleepy fog, feeling tired and irritable every day. You may find easy relief from a compact, comfortable appliance. Your spouse may appreciate it too.