Getting quality sleep each night is one of the most important things in life. While we rest our bodies and brain recharge so that we have the proper energy levels and mental acuity for the day ahead. Yet many Americans don’t get the proper amount of sleep they need. In fact, according to the CDC, one in three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep on a daily basis.
For many, it’s a matter of not sleeping enough, but for others, a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects the quality of their sleep. If you suffer from this condition, you may not be getting quality, restful sleep even if you sleep for seven hours or more. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the airways become restricted or blocked during sleep, prompting your body to gasp for air, sometimes up to 10 times an hour. When this happens your brain sends signals to your body to momentarily wake to take in air.
As you can imagine, the quality of your sleep is severely affected by OSA. This disruptive sleep can cause a host of serious health issues over time if left untreated. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression are a few of the conditions that can result from OSA. One of the most recognizable symptoms of OSA is loud, chronic snoring accompanied by gasps of breath during sleep.
If you notice this symptom in a loved one or you often feel fatigued and experience uncharacteristic irritability after a full night’s sleep, OSA may be the cause. However, there are clear risk factors that can lead to OSA and recognizing these risk factors before symptoms arise can help you diagnose or even prevent OSA from developing. These include factors that can and cannot be changed.
Risk factors for OSA that cannot be changed include:
- Age: OSA most frequently occurs in people 30 or older
- Gender: Most common in men
- Genetics: If your family has a history of sleep apnea
- Ethnicity: It’s been shown that Hispanics and Pacific Islanders have the greatest risk for OSA. African-Americans often get sleep apnea younger
- Deformities of spine: Conditions such as scoliosis may interfere with breathing
- Head and face abnormalities: Conditions such as Marfan’s Syndrome and Down Syndrome may increase a person’s risk
- Menopause: Sleep apnea tends to occur more in women who have been through menopause
While you may not be able to change those factors, understanding what can lead to a greater risk for OSA can keep you aware of the warning signs so that you can get diagnosis and treatment early.
There are also many other risk factors that contribute to OSA that can be changed to lessen your chances of developing sleep apnea. These include:
- Obesity: This is one of the major factors that is likely to cause sleep apnea
- Neck circumference: Extra tissue around the neck may add risk. Losing weight may help this issue
- Enlarged nose, mouth, throat tissue: Enlarged tissue in these areas may block airways while you’re sleeping. Surgery may help correct any blockages
- Bone deformities: Deformities in the nose, mouth, jaw, or throat may interfere with breathing. Surgery may help correct these deformities
- Alcohol or medicine: Drinking alcohol or taking certain medicines (sleeping pills, sedatives) at night may increase your risk
- Smoking: Nicotine relaxes muscles which may block airways
At Adler Advanced Dentistry in Boulder, Dr. Michael Adler has training and experience helping patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Through a holistic approach, he uses advanced oral appliances to help you combat this condition so that you can again get the restful sleep you need for a healthy life.
If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea, please contact us today at to schedule a consultation. We proudly provide services to those who live in and near Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins, Colorado.