It can be easy to write off snoring as a harmless nuisance, but if it’s coupled with momentary stops in your breathing followed by gasps for air, you may have more than just a noise problem. Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition that intermittently blocks your breathing throughout the night.
Lisa Wyatt, DDS, at Metairie Village Dentistry in Metairie, Louisiana, specializes in treating sleep apnea with a unique approach. Here’s what you need to know.
Sleep apnea comes in three types
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing starts and stops repeatedly throughout the night. When your body fails to take in air, you usually wake up briefly to breathe before falling back to sleep. This can happen numerous times a night, and you may not wake up completely. There are three types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. With this type, the soft tissues at the back of your throat relax and block your airways.
Central sleep apnea
With central sleep apnea, your brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
Complex sleep apnea
Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can contribute to the development of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions.
Signs that you might have sleep apnea
Snoring and gasping for air in the middle of the night are the most obvious and common signs of sleep apnea, but there are several other symptoms that could indicate you may have this condition, including:
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Drowsiness during the daytime
- Restless sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Headaches in the morning
- Moodiness and irritability
If you’re experiencing any or all of these symptoms, it’s important to see Dr. Wyatt right away to evaluate your condition and get treatment if necessary.
Risk factors for sleep apnea
Sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, but if any of the following factors describe you, you’re at a higher risk for developing sleep apnea than the general population:
- You’re a male
- You use sedatives or tranquilizers
- Your throat is narrow
- Your tonsils or adenoids are enlarged
- You’re obese
- You’re a senior citizen
- You tend to drink a lot of alcohol
- Your neck is thick
- You’ve had a heart disorder or a stroke
- You smoke
- Your nose is chronically stuffy
Some of the risk factors on this list are controllable, so if any of them apply to you, you can take steps to address them. For example, you can lose weight, curb your alcohol consumption, and stop smoking. These lifestyle changes may significantly reduce your symptoms of sleep apnea or help keep you from developing the condition.
Treating sleep apnea
Dr. Wyatt offers two treatments that may be able to ease your symptoms:
An oral appliance can bring your jaw forward and keep your tongue in place, which may help to keep your airways open.
Another option is the Fotona® LightFase®. This laser technology can gently tighten oral tissues to help prevent blockages of your airways.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Metairie Village Dentistry today.