Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Sleep Apnea

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Sleep Apnea

Snoring occurs when the airway or passage through which we breathe becomes partially blocked or occluded. An example would be a tongue that falls back as we drift off into a deeper sleep. As the diameter or size of the airway passage is shrinking, the net result is a muffled sound secondary to vibrations in the throat, or snoring.

Diagram of person's face to illustrate air flow during snoring | Dentist West Allis

During snoring, air flow is partially blocked






Diagram of air flow during sleep apnea | Milwaukee WI

  During sleep apnea, air flow is completely blocked





In many situations, this compromise is minor and the body continues to get adequate amounts of oxygen to cause little or no harm. However, this is a red flag as it could also be one of the early signs or a part of sleep apnea. Most all sleep apnea sufferers snore in between bouts of apnea, or oxygen interruption. A sleep study should be done to determine the seriousness of one’s condition.

Nights With Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea patients have a rough night and don’t even know it is happening. In a given night, these apneic events (when a patient stops breathing) can occur anywhere from 30 – 50 times, and in some people as many as 60 – 100 times per hour! Obviously, these individuals awake exhausted and spent each morning, as they’ve been fighting for oxygen all night. Sleep should be a replenishing award for each of us. Chances are that your spouse, other family members, or your coworkers, are keen to the problem. They either also suffer from your noisy snoring or see the signs of a body which is not sleeping at night as it woefully attempts to navigate a given day. Recently, a condition known as “secondary snoring” has been researched and has been shown to cost the bed partner of a snorer an average of 1.5 hours of sleep each night. Snoring, in fact, has also been shown to be a leading cause of divorce.

Nocturnal signs and symptoms associated with OSA include drooling, dry mouth, sleep restlessness, witnessed apneas, choking or gasping and sweating.

Sleep apnea is more than just an annoyance. It can also affect your health in a number of negative ways. Take a look at the some of the common side effects of those that suffer from sleep apnea:

  • heart attacks or irregular heart beats
  • impotence
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • heartburn
  • morning headaches
  • dry mouth
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • impaired concentration
  • depression
  • decreased libido
  • irritability
  • chronic sleepiness … periods of nodding off while on the phone or at work
  • learning or memory disabilities (children may be affected also).

Other Health Issues From Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can also negatively impact your life in other ways. Sleep apnea patients are at a much greater risk of having auto accidents. Many apnea sufferers have had a decrease in job performance, leading to demotions and even job loss. Irritability and memory issues can lead to interpersonal problems with family and friends. And, of course, being sleepy all the time makes it difficult to participate in hobbies, social events, or other forms of recreation and relaxation.

Contributing Factors of Sleep Apnea

Other contributing factors for sleep apnea other than snoring would be those that are also overweight, have high blood pressure and or some physical abnormality in the nose (deviated septums), throat, or other parts of the upper airway. Certain studies also indicated that this condition may also have a genetic link.

So should you be worried? The answer is yes! If you believe you may have sleep apnea, see your doctor to schedule a sleep study. And if you have already been diagnosed, contact our West Allis dental office to find out what treatments we offer to help.

Underdiagnosed and frequently dismissed simply as harmless yet annoying snoring, “obstructive sleep apnea” (OSA) is a very dangerous condition. If you or a loved one snore loudly at night, please have a sleep study done to rule out this potentially fatal condition.

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