Sleep-related breathing disorders are a condition which causes a pause in breathing during sleep which can last from a few seconds to minutes. It can cause serious, potentially life-threatening issues such as heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.
While sleep apnea can be as a result of a problem with the central nervous system, most cases of sleep apnea can be attributed to a mild to severe obstruction of the airway. This type of sleep apnea is referred to as “obstructive sleep apnea”. Snoring is the single, most common indicator of obstructive sleep apnea – other symptoms include daytime fatigue, morning headaches, irritability and difficulty concentrating.
When the airway becomes obstructed during sleep, the brain sends an alarm to get the muscles and tissue responding properly again and resume normal breathing. This alarm jolts the sleeper out of deep sleep, and continuous episodes of obstructive sleep apnea will take a toll on the health and well being of the individual and lead to chronic fatigue and depression.
Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed by an overnight sleep study at a licensed clinic. This assessment must be arranged by your primary health care provider. Once sleep apnea has been diagnosed, there are different treatment options ranging a simple dental device worn during sleep to a CPAP machine that sends a constant stream of air to keep the airway open, to surgical solutions to remove excess throat tissue. Your dentist can work with your primary health care provider to assist with diagnosis and to fit an appropriate dental appliance. Because of the potentially serious effects of obstructive sleep apnea and because treatment is relatively simple, requesting a referral for a sleep study may be one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being.