Do you often wake up feeling groggy or seem tired during the day? Does your partner tell you that you snore on a regular basis? If so, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. You may have no clue as to what causes sleep apnea, but the evidence is clear -- a break in breathing can be dangerous to your health!
Disruptive sleep patterns can repeat themselves 30 to 50 times per hour throughout the night. This prevents you from sleeping well, which is why you may feel sluggish or sleepy when you're awake. You may also wake up in the middle of the night, have a hard time falling back asleep or not be able to get to sleep in the first place. If that's the case, educate yourself about the causes of sleep apnea and see what you can do to get a better night's rest!
The Most Common Sleep Apnea Cause
When you're awake, your throat muscles keep the airway stiff and open to allow air into your lungs. These muscles support the soft palate, the uvula (the tissue hanging at the back of your throat), the tonsils and the tongue. Sleeping causes the throat muscles to become more relaxed, narrowing or completely closing the airway as you breathe.
When the airway is blocked during sleep, breathing temporarily stops, preventing air from entering your lungs. Not getting enough air to your lungs can cause the oxygen levels in your blood to drop. When oxygen drops to dangerous levels, it triggers the brain to disturb sleep patterns, which is what causes sleep apnea. One of two things usually happen here: Sleep apnea causes you to wake up for a moment to clear the airway (although you probably won't remember it), or it will tighten the airway muscles to open your windpipe, resulting in a choking sound you know as snoring.
Other Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and complex. All types of sleep apnea result from a lapse of breathing, but sleep apnea causes may vary according to each type. A blocked airway is the cause of obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea. In central sleep apnea, your brain doesn't transmit signals to your breathing muscles, sometimes causing you to wake up in the middle of the night short of breath (you'll probably remember it this time). Complex sleep apnea results from the mixture of the two.
Why does sleep apnea affect some people and not others? There are several factors that can determine whether you'll be affected by sleep apnea. You already know that the main sleep apnea cause is when throat muscles or the tongue relaxes, blocking the airway. If this happens more than normal, you may be at greater risk for developing sleep apnea. The cause of sleep apnea may also result from a physical impediment. An enlarged tongue or tonsils, smaller windpipe or abnormalities in the nose or throat could put your airway in danger of becoming blocked more easily.
Causes of sleep apnea can also be triggered by weight, age and gender - unfortunately, being overweight can cause sleep apnea to occur. Being over the age of 40 or a male also means you're more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Environmental factors such as drinking prior to bedtime or having a cold or sinus infection or are also sleep apnea causes.
Concerns Regarding the Causes of Sleep Apnea
If you're not concerned about what causes sleep apnea, you should be. Frequent disruptions in sleep patterns can trigger the release of stress hormones. Stress raises your heart rate, increasing the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeats and even heart failure. Sleep apnea can also increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.
If you think you have a sleep apnea problem, visit the dentist! Determining the cause of sleep apnea can help you and your dentist come up with a solution.
If you need a dentist for sleep apnea treatment, call us at 1-866-970-0441.