Restful, restorative sleep eludes many of us. It’s true that for some people, it’s occasionally about stress or the inability to relax and turn their daily concerns off or stop thinking about future problems or worry about to-do lists for tomorrow.
Remarkably for about 90 million Americans, snoring is the cause of their sleepless nights. An estimated 54 million of these frequent snorers may have a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which may ultimately lead to sometimes life-threatening medical conditions, says our own Ginger Rome, DDS, at The Dentists at North Cypress in Houston, Texas.
Anyone within earshot of an avid snorer knows it’s disturbing and annoying, but how is it connected to sleep apnea, and what makes it so dangerous? Let’s unpack these questions by first explaining what sleep apnea is in the first place.
Sleep apnea is almost a literal description as the word apnea comes from the Greek word for breathless. Sleep apnea is a medical condition occurring when you stop breathing during sleep. It plays out during sleep due to a blockage of your airway or because your brain misfires and the nerve signals that operate the breathing function don't send the signal to breathe.
In either case, your breathing gets disrupted. The common snoring symptom of sleep apnea is accompanied by equally disturbing snorting, gasping, or body jerks when breathing finally resumes. This series of episodes of breathing stoppages and restarts repeats numerous times throughout a sleep session.
This seemingly unending loop of your breathing stopping during your sleep cycle not only wreaks havoc on the potential of restful sleep but also may dangerously impact your body chemistry.
Specifically, sleep apnea causes repeat drops in blood oxygen levels while increasing carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream. These imbalances in carbon dioxide and blood oxygen levels put you at risk of developing several serious, even life-threatening conditions.
Every time your blood oxygen levels suddenly dip, it increases your blood pressure and stresses your cardiovascular system. These conditions create a perfect storm for developing high blood pressure and having a stroke or heart attack. If you already have cardiovascular issues, these recurring episodes of blood oxygen deprivation may even trigger sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.
But the effect of these repeated blood oxygen level drops coupled with carbon dioxide level increases might impact your body’s blood glucose metabolism. Specifically, these imbalances affect your body’s ability to use insulin effectively and may trigger insulin resistance. This scenario may put you at a higher risk of developing diabetes.Sleep apnea can make it hard to manage diabetes if you already suffer from it.
Not surprisingly, according to clinical research, insulin resistance also challenges weight management. The way it works is the fact that sleep apnea makes it difficult to get restful sleep. Sleep deprivation can trigger weight gain or an increased risk of obesity, making it hard to manage a healthy weight.
The good news is that the dangerous implications of sleep apnea aren’t inevitable as effective treatment options are available. Our team at The Dentists at North Cypress creates custom-made oral appliances to treat obstructive sleep apnea. This dental device tackles the issue of airway blockages by gently shifting your jaw forward to open airways and preventing obstructions.
Our team processes this treatment using an in-office pharyngometer or rhinometer to measure the flexibility and size of your airways. We then send this data to a dental laboratory, which fabricates your dental device. When we receive the device from the lab, you return to our office for a fitting and treatment plan. Since each oral appliance is tailor-made for each patient’s specifications, the fit and comfort exceed that of a typical CPAP.
If you snore and are concerned that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, contact The Dentists at North Cypress. Call or schedule an appointment online today.