Sleep is a critical component of overall health, yet most of us don’t give it the attention it deserves. Little or poor-quality sleep can lead to a host of chronic health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, irregular heartbeat, GERD (acid reflux), diabetes, obesity, and depression. The list of possible acute health issues is equally concerning. Without treatment, sleep apnea increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and motor vehicle collisions (falling asleep at the wheel).
A result of the blockage or restriction of airflow into the lungs, sleep apnea leads to oxygen deprivation that damages body and brain. It is one of the most serious sleep disorders that, if left untreated, can cause long-term damage to health. People who share a bed with sleep apnea sufferers often report that their partners have long pauses in between breaths, gasp for air, and snore loudly. People with sleep apnea are often unaware of this and may only notice that they feel fatigued after a full night of sleep.
Still, there are waking symptoms that can be warning signs for suspected sleep apnea: excessive daytime sleepiness, alertness and vision impairments, memory issues, and unusual lack of motivation.
If you’re falling asleep at the wheel or in front of your favorite TV show, if you’re dragging just to get through a day, your health may be compromised by sleep apnea, something that’s going to have long-term consequences if not addressed soon. You should contact an oral physician trained in treating sleep-disordered breathing and begin a treatment regimen.
Though not as damaging as sleep apnea, snoring is also the result of obstructed breathing and is a sign that something is wrong. Excessive or long-term snoring has been linked to health problems including stroke. Even if it’s mild, chronic snoring should not be ignored.
One of the primary issues with snoring is that those who are afflicted by it don’t usually know they have a problem. Their partner, another family member, or a roommate is often the person who recognizes there is an issue.
It’s important to understand that snoring is more often a symptom of a more complicated root cause. For that reason, oral appliances should be considered carefully. While they can eliminate the snoring, that might not be an entirely positive thing. Snoring can sometimes act as a monitoring device for the bed/room partner. Without snoring irregularities as a warning sign, a more severe problem could be missed, to potentially dire consequences.
A qualified sleep disorder oral physician is the best health care professional to work with when seeking to treat sleep-disordered breathing. Treating the root cause is the only way to safely address the suspected sleeping disorders that are signaled by snoring. Solutions can be as minimal as behavioral corrections like adjusting your sleep position or as invasive as corrective surgery. Knowing the appropriate action to take at the advice of a dental professional is vital. You will be properly referred as necessary to a board-certified sleep physician, ENT, or surgeon.
Learn more about sleep apnea, its causes, and how to address it in Dr. Gene Sambataro’s forthcoming book, Stop the Snore! Dental Solutions for Healthy Sleep, out September 26, 2017.”