Snoring is something we often make fun of in our society. Loud, gurgling noises occur all night long. But it isn’t funny to the person trying to sleep next to you. And what it’s doing to your body is not funny either. This is because it may be killing you, just slowly. The whole nighttime ordeal can be quite unsettling, even scary, for a bedmate, especially when you stop breathing!
Snoring occurs because there is a disruption of airflow going into your lungs. The usual cause for the disruption is your tongue or soft palate (back part of the roof of your mouth) is falling back into your throat and partially blocking air. This causes the gurgling noises. Over time, the condition gets worse. Your throat can become completely closed off so no air goes through to your lungs. This is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea is defined as when you fail to breathe for 10 seconds or more during sleep. These ten seconds of not breathing can last far longer and can occur up to hundreds of times during the night. Your brain will detect the lack of oxygen and try to correct it. It will continually wake you up, sometimes with a jerk and gasping for air. Most often, though, you will have no recollection of this happening, as you will be in a deep state of sleep. Your heart will be racing, trying to increase the blood carrying the oxygen to your brain. When you are sleeping your heart should be resting, not racing.
Over time, this physical stress will cause significant damage to your heart. Other health problems will begin to occur as the quality of your sleep continually gets worse. During sleep, our bodies regulate many hormones, some of which control hunger. For instance, ghrelin triggers hunger; it’s quite active during episodes of sleep apnea and one major reason why you might be gaining weight so easily and can’t get rid of it. And diabetes is just around the corner.
If you’re a diabetic, it is very important that you find out if you also have obstructive sleep apnea. Heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, weight gain, menstrual irregularities, teeth grinding, periodontal disease and depression are all symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. These are all diseases occurring because your sleep cycles are interrupted and your body’s hormones are not being regulated.
Most of the patients we treat for sleep apnea are between 35 and 60. Many have great bodies, active life styles, and growing careers. Most of them are on some form of antidepressants and struggle to focus, have trouble remembering names and dates, and fall asleep during the day –often while driving. Their obstructive sleep apnea is preventing them from going through all phases of sleep. Sleep is classified into 4 phases that we go through repeatedly each night: N1, N2, N3/4, and REM. N3/4 is when our brain is processes facts and data. If you have trouble remembering what you learned in class or what was said in a board meeting you may not be getting to this stage enough during sleep. REM stage is where we process emotions and events. If you have trouble controlling your emotions it may simply be that you don’t get enough REM sleep each night because you have obstructive sleep apnea.
Diagnosing sleep apnea is not complicated. First we have to figure out if you suffer from it. If you snore, grind your teeth, have reflux, (GERD), have migraines, trouble sleeping, sleepiness during the day, a large neck size, are overweight, have diabetes or heart disease, ask your dentist or family doctor if they will screen you for sleep apnea. If they feel you may have problems, you will be referred to a Board Certified Sleep Physician who will require that you have a sleep study – either in a sleep center, or at home. Your Sleep physician will determine if you have sleep apnea, to what degree, and will also diagnose other sleep problems. Treating sleep apnea is simply getting air into your lungs while you sleep. Many patients use a machine called a CPAP. It consists of a hose connected to a pump and facemask that forces air into your throat to open the blockage and get air into your lungs. If you have tried a CPAP and can’t wear one, or your lifestyle does not allow you to wear CPAP each night, you can be fitted with a dental mouth piece that will slip your jaw back to the position it is in during the day. An oral sleep appliance is small, custom-fitted and gently repositions the jaw forward, keeping your tongue out of your throat and allowing you to breath.
The wonderful aspect of the human body is its ability to correct itself. If you can get a good night’s sleep, many of the symptoms of sleep apnea will begin to get better and your health may even return to normal over time. The earlier you have sleep apnea treated the better – and longer – your life will be!
If you are struggling with snoring or sleep apnea and live in or near Hampton or Newport News, VA call Port Warwick Dental Arts today! We can help you find the treatment that is best for you. We are located 251 nat Turner Blvd S, Newport News, VA 23606. What are you waiting for? Call now (720) 306-8057!