Sleep apnea is a disorder which affects 18 million Americans. It results in loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
Types of Sleep Apnea
- obstructive--the most common--occurs when soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and obstructs the airway, causing breathing to stop
- central--when the brain doesn't signal the muscles to breathe
- mixed--a combination of the two
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Rest?
During normal sleep, muscles that stiffen the airway behind the tongue and soft palate relax. With a normal size airway, there is no problem. However, if the airway is small (anatomically or because of excess weight), it can close. Breathing continues against the closed airway and becomes increasingly strong (in response to diminished oxygen levels and increased carbon dioxide levels) until the greater effort causes awakening, which activates the muscles to reopen the airway. The arousals are brief (and mostly unnoticed) but if they occur frequently enough during the night, sleep becomes fragmented and non-restorative, and daytime sleepiness and fatigue results.
With a proper diagnosis of sleep apnea, some dentists make appliances for patients to wear that are designed to keep the airway open. Prevention.com has a listing of research studies regarding the health effects of untreated sleep apnea.
Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | www.drtupac.com 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309