Sleep Apnea: What You Need to Know

Moderate to severe sleep apnea occurs in millions of people every year. It can be dangerous if left untreated, and in some cases, it can even be deadly. This blog post will discuss what sleep apnea can affect and whether or not sleep apnea can kill you and how to treat it.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep problem where people’s breathing stops during sleep. It might be caused by many factors, including obesity and enlarged tonsils.

There are three types of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Central Sleep Apnea, and Mixed Sleep Apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common, and it occurs when something blocks your upper airway while you’re asleep. This can be anything from excess fat or tissue around the neck to swollen tonsils or adenoids. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is often accompanied by breathing pauses and snoring, and it can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea is less common and occurs when the brain fails to send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing which may cut off the upper airway. Central Sleep Apnea can be caused by stroke, heart failure, or disorders like narcolepsy.

Mixed Sleep Apnea

Mixed Sleep Apnea occurs when someone has Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea symptoms. It’s not as common as either Obstructive Sleep Apnea or Central Sleep Apnea, but it can be just as dangerous if left untreated.

Factors That Can Lead to Sleep Apnea

Many things can lead to sleep apnea, which is out of your control. But there are also factors that you can control, such as weight and smoking habits, which can increase the risk.

Those at higher risk of sleep apnea include those who:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have nasal congestion
  • Smoke or use tobacco
  • Use alcohol and drugs
  • Are older (muscles weaken)
  • Have medical conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and Parkinson’s disease
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect the Body?

Sleep apnea can have many effects on the body. Some of these signs and symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring or heavy breathing during sleep
  • Dry mouth and a sore throat
  • Choking or gasping, lower oxygen levels
  • Difficulty staying asleep or falling asleep
  • Daytime sleepiness and fatigue during the day
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and decision-making
  • Mood swings, such as irritability or depression
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
  • Weight gain

If left untreated, sleep apnea can be dangerous, and in some cases, it can even be deadly. It has also been known to increase mortality rates, and it can also increase your risk for additional health conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, etc.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can sometimes be treated with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or changing your sleep position. However, some people may need surgery or other medical procedures if their symptoms persist even after making some adjustments.

Treatment ranges from simple devices like CPAP machines to more invasive treatments like surgery. Untreated sleep apnea may cause more serious health conditions, so continue reading about potential treatment options.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can sometimes help treat sleep apnea by improving sleep quality and helping to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. Some standard adjustments that may help treat sleep apnea include:

  • Weight loss
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Sleeping on your side
Sleep Study

Partaking in a sleep study can help to determine whether sleep apnea is causing your sleep problems or not. Still, it’s important to know that other sleep disorders cause similar symptoms, such as restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist about having a study done.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

The most common treatment is a therapy called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which provides continuous air through a mask worn over the nose and mouth while you sleep.

Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP)

The Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP) is an FDA-cleared device designed to treat people with sleep apnea. The device works by sitting in the patient’s mouth and keeping the jaw and airway open. The jaw is held in an open position to keep airways open during sleep. This treatment option causes minimal discomfort and allows patients to return to normal sleep quickly.

Surgery

There are a few surgery options that can treat sleep apnea. The most common type of surgery is palatal surgery, which is surgery on the soft palate.

Other types of surgery that can be used to treat sleep apnea include:

  • Tonsillectomy-surgery to remove the tonsils
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)-surgery to remove excess tissue at the back of the throat
  • Maxillofacial surgery-surgery to reshape the jaw and face

Surgery is not always necessary to treat sleep apnea. So, if you are considering surgery as a treatment option, make sure to see a doctor about the risk factors and benefits of each type of surgery before deciding.

Contact Us Today!

Many times, patients do not know they are experiencing sleep apnea symptoms. Their bed partner may notice they are snoring, and then they stop breathing, and this can be concerning and obstructive for your partner.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, the best thing to do is see your doctor. They will likely perform a sleep study to diagnose the condition and determine its severity. Once you know your condition’s severity, your doctor can recommend the best treatment plan.

Our team at Legacy Dentistry of Virginia is here for all your oral and overall health needs. We want all our patients to live happy and healthy lives. If you have any additional questions about sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

David Head Shot
David T. Babington, DDS

Dr. David T. Babington grew up in the Chantilly area and attended Paul IV High School in Fairfax, where his involvement on the Cross Country team ignited his lifelong love of running. 

Recent Posts