Everyone knows someone who snores. It’s annoying and not cause for serious medical concern. On the contrary, it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition that is much very serious, sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition characterized by snoring. It cuts off breathing and makes a distinctive snoring sound. There are two kinds of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
For patients with obstructive sleep apnea, the main problem is that the throat muscles relax during sleep and obstruct the airway.
For central sleep apnea, the brain does not send a signal to the muscles telling them to breathe. In both cases, people with untreated sleep apnea can stop breathing hundreds of times in their sleep.
There are several risk factors for sleep apnea. Being overweight, over 40, and male are all huge risk factors, but so are things like the shape of your jaw and the size of the patient’s tongue.
Family history plays a role too. Patients with a history of sleep apnea in their family are more likely to develop it themselves.
There are several approaches to treating sleep apnea. Losing weight, since obesity is a risk factor, may be part of a treatment plan either by itself or in conjunction with other approaches.
Your doctor may prescribe a CPAP machine, which is essentially an air pump with a face mask. It blows air into the airway and keeps the muscles from collapsing. About half of patients, however, find that these are too uncomfortable to use.
Another excellent approach is to use an oral device, such as a mouth guard. These devices work by repositioning, and stabilizing, the jaw and tongue. These mouth guards have to be made by a dentist.
The best ones work by pushing the lower jaw forward, which keeps the airway open and allows for better breathing. Like any oral device, it has to be adjusted periodically for best fit and effectiveness.
Sleep apnea is a complicated condition with several risk factors. If you or a loved one is snoring, you could be at risk for this condition. Talk to your doctor or dentist right away for an evaluation.