If you have a snoring habit, or if you often notice during the day that you feel drowsy or inattentive, you could be suffering from sleep apnea. “Apnea” means “no breath” in Greek and if you have sleep apnea, you wake up many times during the night to gasp for air and then fall back asleep. Your airway (trachea) is being blocked by soft tissue falling back against it.
At the back of the throat, there are several soft-tissue structures that can collapse against the airway, such as the uvula, the back of the tongue, tonsils and adenoids. During the day, throat muscles keep the airway open but when you sleep, especially if you sleep on your back, the muscles relax and air can be partially or fully blocked by collapsed tissue.
A person with sleep apnea may stop breathing several hundred times every night and each time can be for as long as a minute and even longer. This makes for a poor night’s sleep and chronic fatigue as well as other health problems. This is not a rare condition – many people suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea. Even visits to your doctor may not lead to a diagnosis, as there are no blood tests to detect it and you are breathing normally during the day.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
If you have undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea, you may have chronic symptoms such as:
- Headaches in the morning
- A dry, scratchy throat when you wake in the morning
- A short attention span
- Poor memory
- Poor work performance
- Irritability, depression, or mood swings
A child with sleep apnea may mouth breathing during the day, wet the bed, perform poorly in school, and exhibit hyperactivity and/or aggressiveness.
Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Most people who suffer from sleep apnea are overweight. They have extra fatty tissue around the throat and airway that can more easily compress and close the airway during sleep.
Other people who tend to develop sleep apnea more than the general population are:
- Men, especially men in mid-life
- People over the age of 65 or so
- Post-menopausal women
- Hispanics, African-Americans, and Pacific Islanders
- People with small airways
- Children with enlarged tonsils
- Tobacco users
Dr. Stephen Sulzbach is a Board Certified Dental Sleep Medicine specialist to diagnose and treat sleep apnea. It is a life-threatening condition that should be diagnosed as soon as possible. The frequent periods of apnea lower your blood oxygen level, causing the brain to receive too little oxygen. The lack of sleep triggers release of stress hormones that can increase your risk of heart failure.
There have been many studies done on sleep apnea and its connections with other health problems and it has now been strongly linked to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks
Sleep apnea treatment can be simple and effective, consisting of a customized appliance to be worn at night. It will hold your lower jaw slightly forward and keep your airway open. For more information, please see How to Treat Sleep Apnea and Questions About Sleep Apnea.
If you or your sleeping partner have a snoring habit or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, please contact our Lansdale, Pennsylvania office for a free consultation with Dr. Sulzbach, who also welcomes patients from Souderton and Harleysville, Pennsylvania.
Stephen Sulzbach, DMD
1111 Forty Foot Road
PO Box 220
Kulpsville, PA 19443