You might be surprised when Dr. Hawkins asks about your sleeping patterns, but dentists are often the first to recommend sleep studies. Thorough examinations of the mouth can reveal telltale signs of sleep disorders that severely inhibit your quality of life.
You might already be aware of the fact that chronic snoring is one of the most common signs of sleep apnea.
- An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea
- Sleep apnea can result in hundreds of awakenings per night
- Decreased oxygen flow weakens the immune system
- Irritability, depression, & anxiety are common with sleep deprivation
- Exhaustion can cause you to fall asleep while working or driving
Apnea translates literally to “temporary cessation of breathing.”
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the most commonly diagnosed type and happens when your airway becomes blocked by relaxed muscles and tissues. Your breath may stop for a few seconds or up to a few minutes 30+ times per hour.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn’t send signals to the muscles that control your breathing
- Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both central and obstructive
- CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines can be used for each type
- Many people struggle with wearing bulky, noisy CPAP machines
With 18 million people affected by sleep apnea, it’s clearly not a discriminatory disorder.
However, there are certain factors that increase your risk.
Unfortunately, some of the factors that increase your risk of sleep apnea are beyond your control, like being male (men are twice as likely to be diagnosed), having a family history of sleep apnea, having a narrow airway, being asthmatic, and aging (sleep apnea becomes more common after the age of 40). Some external factors that elevate your risk include:
- Frequent alcohol consumption
- Excess weight
- Sedative use