Sleep Apnea is a common side effect of being overweight.
I had it for years, and used a sleep apnea machine off and on for the last 18 years or so, until I had my heart incident, which forced me to lose weight. But one of the secrets about sleep apnea, is that it can cause you to gain weight, because your heart and metabolism are constantly interrupted during sleep.
There are two different types of sleep apnea.
The most common are called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is caused by the soft tissues in the throat collapsing inwards as the muscles relax during sleep, blocking the airway. When this occurs, sufferers can stop breathing for several seconds until the body prompts them to restart. When breathing starts again, it’s usually accompanied by a loud gasp or snort.
Central sleep apnea is quite different as the airway isn’t blocked. It is due instead to the brain failing to tell the muscles to breathe and is caused by instability in the respiratory system.
Who Is More Likely to Develop it?
It can affect anyone; it can even develop in children. However, there are a number of risk factors for developing this condition. These include being male, overweight, and being over the age of 40.
Men with a neck size in excess of 17 inches and women with a neck size in excess of 16 inches are at greater risk of developing sleep apnea.
If you have a small jawbone, large tonsils or a large tongue, you may be more likely to see this develop.
Medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux, having allergies or sinus problems, or having a family history of sleep apnea can all mean you are more likely to develop this condition.
Should I Be Worried about Developing Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is definitely a condition you should be worried about developing. Without the proper treatment, it can result in a number of different health problems. These include diabetes, depression, heart problems including heart attacks, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as headaches.
People with ADHD who also have sleep apnea may notice this condition worsening.
Additionally, sleep apnea can make it unsafe to drive or to operate machinery and can negatively impact everyday activities such as school or work. Children with sleep apnea may underachieve academically.
How Can I Tell If I Have Sleep Apnea?
If you don’t have a sleeping partner to tell you that breathing is interrupted during sleep, it can be difficult to tell.
Nevertheless, there are symptoms to be aware of and which include:
• Snoring loudly, as sometimes it is possible to wake yourself up with your own snoring
• Waking up with a very dry or very sore throat
• Noticing you sometimes wake up with a feeling that you are choking or gasping
• Feeling excessively sleepy or lacking energy during the daytime
• Being aware that you sleep restlessly
• Feeling sleepy when you drive
• Noticing you’re awake more frequently during the night or that you have insomnia
• Your mood may change; you could become less interested in sex or more forgetful
What to Do
If you think there is a possibility you have sleep apnea, it’s worth booking to see us a Cosmetic Dentistry Center. A specialist dentist can examine you and they will ask you about your symptoms.
They will also take a look inside your mouth. If your tonsils are a bit on the larger side, they may need to refer you to an ear nose and throat surgeon. Another possible course of action is to order a sleep study, where you will attend a sleep center so your sleep can be monitored overnight.
Alternatively, you might be able to use portable equipment for home testing. Once you have some more information, a specialist can talk to you about the ways this condition can be treated.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Sometimes it might be a matter of changing your sleeping position or maybe even changing your pillow. Making small lifestyle changes can also be very useful. For example, if you are overweight, getting your weight down so it is within normal BMI range could be enough to treat mild cases of sleep apnea.
It can be helpful to avoid alcohol or sleeping pills, and if you smoke then this is a good excuse for quitting. This is because smoking can increase swelling in your airway, increasing the likelihood that you will snore even if you don’t have sleep apnea. People with this condition often sleep on their backs, so, avoiding this position could be helpful.
Using a Custom-Made Dental Appliance to Treat Sleep Apnea
Something else you can look at is getting a custom-made dental appliance. This will be designed by a specialist dentist to comfortably pull your lower jaw slightly forward, gently holding it in this position while you sleep. This could be enough to keep your airway open during sleep.
If you have moderate to serious sleep apnea you may need what’s called a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. This consists of a small mask worn over your nose or mouth while you sleep. It will pump a continuous flow of air into your airway, helping to keep your breathing regular.
It is possible to have surgery for this condition and this may be useful if you have a small lower jaw. It may be used to remove excess soft tissue right at the back of the throat and the palate which will increase the width of the airway. If this is the case, a specialist dentist can provide you with a referral to a respected local oral surgeon.