Sleep Apnea FAQ
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. The term sleep apnea is derived from the Greek etymology meaning “without breath”. Breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happen as often as 30 times or more per hour.
There are two main types of sleep apnea disorders. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction of the airway and air cannot flow through the nose or mouth during sleep, even though the body is still trying to breathe. This is the more common type of sleep apnea and the type that is more easily treatable by a dentist. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send important signals to the breathing muscles during sleep.
Snoring and sleep apnea are caused by an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This obstruction causes turbulent air flow which produces vibrations of the soft tissue. The sound generated from these vibrations is called snoring. Ongoing sleep apnea causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body. Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body telling it to wake up to restart breathing the process.
People with sleep apnea will be partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations. Because people with sleep apnea don’t always wake up completely during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and their sleep apnea can remain undiagnosed.
Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea can include:
- Severe early morning headaches
- Excessive sleepiness in the daytime
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sore throat
- Gasping or choking sensation when waking
At your first visit, Dr. Morreale will conduct tests in order to investigate, diagnose and pinpoint the cause of airway obstruction during sleep and design a suitable treatment plan. We offer many different treatment options which depend largely on the root cause of the condition and the health of the patient. As a first step, we advise our patients to halt some habits that can aggravate sleep apnea such as smoking, alcohol consumption, use of sleep aids and late-night eating.