Most of us snore from time to time. But if your snoring is abnormally loud, you might be suffering from sleep apnea. While snoring may be annoying, sleep apnea is a serious condition that should be treated by a healthcare professional.
As opposed to people who simply snore, patients with sleep apnea will experience periods of time when their breathing actually stops while they’re sleeping, or periods where they experience abnormally low levels of breathing during sleep. This disrupted breathing typically happens when the person’s airway is blocked, and this condition is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Most people with OSA don’t even realize they have the condition. Although they might still be tired when they wake up, or they might get sleepy during the day due to their disrupted sleep patterns, it’s usually another family member who notices the periods of time when the OSA patient stops breathing while asleep. And some people with sleep apnea don’t snore at all!
Snoring is different than apnea. In most people, snoring is caused by the respiratory structures vibrating while the patient is sleeping. Usually, this involves the uvula in the back of the throat, sinus congestion, or an elongated soft palate. Snoring is much more common than sleep apnea. In fact, some studies have found that about half of the adult population in the US snore while they sleep, but only 1 person in 15 actually suffers from sleep apnea.
If you believe you might suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, talk to your dentist or doctor and describe your symptoms. Although surgery might be recommended for the most severe cases, non-surgical treatments usually work well to resolve the problems. One of the most popular is a customized mouth guard that the patient wears while sleeping. These appliances help to keep obstructed airways open while the patient sleeps. People suffering from OSA may also be treated with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, which delivers a continuous flow of air into the throat while the patient sleeps.
One of the first steps in treating either condition is to contact a sleep specialist. You may be surprised to learn that this is often your family dentist! Because snoring and sleep apnea are often effectively treated by wearing oral appliances during sleep, it makes sense that so many dental professionals would offer their patients these services. For more information, contact your dentist.