Experts say there are around 30 million people in the United States who have sleep apnea. If you think that number is shocking, consider the fact that only 6 million of them have actually been diagnosed.
That means over 20 million folks are completely unaware that they have a potentially serious health condition. And who could blame them? The telltale sleep apnea symptoms (snoring, daytime sleepiness, etc.) are easy to write off.
At Chester Family Dentistry in Warren, Ohio, it’s our goal to educate people on sleep apnea and what causes it so they can get the help they need as quickly as possible. Here’s a closer look at six of the most common culprits behind sleep apnea.
1. Airway obstruction
Obstructive sleep apnea (the most common type of sleep apnea) typically stems from a problem with the muscles in the back of your throat. When they relax too much, your airways narrow or close completely, making it nearly impossible for you to get enough air.
It’s no secret that your body loses a bit of its former glory over time. Your skin starts to wrinkle, your joints creak, and your eyesight gets fuzzy.
But that’s not all. The structures around your throat weaken, your soft palate lengthens, and fatty deposits build up in your head and neck — all of which contribute to sleep apnea.
3. Medical conditions
Sleep apnea can also be the result of an underlying health condition, including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. Some medications used to manage pain can also contribute to sleep apnea.
It’s not exactly understood why it happens, but studies show that at some stages of life, men are 2-3 times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. Most blame a variety of factors, such as upper airway anatomy, breathing control, hormones, and response to aging.
5. Neck circumference
If you have a large neck circumference, you may also have sleep apnea. That’s because larger necks tend to have narrower airways and/or more fat deposits around the throat, causing you to have trouble breathing at night.
6. Being overweight
Many who are overweight also develop sleep apnea. As fat accumulates all over your body and around your throat, your airways experience a significant amount of pressure, making it tough for you to breathe.
Other risk factors
In addition to the six causes of sleep apnea listed above, you should know about a few other risk factors. For instance, a certain type of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea can occur when your brain fails to send signals to your breathing muscles.
A family history of sleep apnea, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, use of sedatives or tranquilizers, and even chronic nasal congestion can also cause sleep apnea.
Your next steps
Often, the best place to start with sleep apnea treatment is to address the underlying cause. That usually means making necessary lifestyle adjustments, losing weight, and managing any underlying health problems.
In addition to healthy habits, you may also benefit from sleep apnea therapies, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which regulates air pressure while you sleep. However, CPAP machines can be quite cumbersome, and many don’t tolerate them well.
For that reason, we recommend treating sleep apnea with a custom-made oral appliance that holds your lower jaw in the ideal position for easy nighttime breathing. You wear it as you would a mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. This simple therapy allows you to quietly, comfortably, and conveniently treat sleep apnea.
Do you suspect you have sleep apnea? Don’t wait another day to get help. Call our friendly staff at 330-331-9026 to schedule an appointment at our office today.