[ap-nee-uh]: A temporary suspension of breathing, occurring in some adults during sleep (sleep apnea)
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which regular breathing during sleep is interrupted. It is defined as the cessation of air flow for more than 10 seconds with a fall in the oxygen saturation in the blood of 4 percent. Severe sleep apnea is characterized by 30 or more apneic episodes occurring during 7 hours of nocturnal sleep. Sleep apnea is a chronic health problem that worsens over time.
During a sleep apnea episode, a person’s throat will begin to relax and collapse. As the airway becomes obstructed, the oxygen in the blood drops. In an effort to keep the oxygen levels consistent, the brain elevates the heart rate and increases adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body, which triggers a “fight or flight” response. The constriction of peripheral blood vessels follows, causing a rise in blood pressure. In most cases, the “fight or flight” trigger is strong enough and it will cause the person to “cough” themselves awake.
Do you suffer from sleep apnea?
If you experience any symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to contact your doctor or dentist to receive a proper diagnosis. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can shave as many as 18 years from a person’s life, while causing other problems such as:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Insomnia, chronic fatigue, poor sleep
- Elevated blood pressure
- High blood glucose levels
- Chronic headaches
- Mood swings, depression
- Short term memory loss
- Inattention, poor concentration
- Enuresis (bedwetting)
- Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Sleep apnea can also cause dental problems such as:
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
- Cracked, broken, or missing teeth
- Worn anterior teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Neck and shoulder pain