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It's Not Just Snoring: The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sometimes loud snoring is just an annoyance to the person next you in bed — or in the next room. But when the snoring is accompanied by bouts of stopped breathing, coughing, or gasping for air, you have a bigger problem than simply disturbing the peace.

Sleep apnea, a condition that blocks your airway while you slumber, can stop your breathing multiple times throughout the night and lead to a long list of serious complications.

Here, Dr. Jason Hamada at Hamada Family Dentistry in San Jose, California, explains the dangers of sleep apnea and how a dental expert can relieve your symptoms.

Types of sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the muscles and soft tissues in your throat relax and slump inward while you sleep, blocking your airway.

Central sleep apnea occurs when your nervous system malfunctions and fails to regulate your breathing. It’s possible to experience both types at the same time, which is called mixed sleep apnea.

Whichever type you have, the consequences of letting it go untreated can be dangerous.

Complications of sleep apnea

If you ignore sleep apnea, you put your overall health in danger. Some consequences are immediate, some appear gradually as the condition progresses, and some increase your risk for other health problems, such as the following. 

Heart problems

Sleep apnea reduces the amount of oxygen in your body, which makes you vulnerable to vascular problems, such as atrial fibrillation, stroke, and heart attacks.

Hypertension

Frequent sleep disruption taxes your body, increases the production of stress hormones, and elevates your blood pressure. If you already have hypertension and later develop sleep apnea, it can make your hypertension even worse. 

Weight gain

If you’re overweight or obese, you have a high risk of developing sleep apnea. But if sleep apnea comes first, it can cause you to pack on the pounds. The constant sleep disruptions trigger your body to make more ghrelin, the “hungry hormone,” so you tend to consume more calories than you should.

Sleep apnea also makes you lethargic during the day, so you’re less likely to exercise. 

Diabetes and metabolic syndrome

Obesity puts you at risk for sleep apnea, sleep apnea puts you at risk for obesity — and both put you at risk for type 2 diabetes

Sleep apnea can also lead to metabolic syndrome, which means you suffer from any three or more of the following health problems:

  • Low HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
  • High triglyceride levels
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Large waist circumference

Getting treatment for sleep apnea can resolve many of these other issues as well.

Fatigue and sleepiness

Daytime drowsiness may not seem like a serious symptom, but when you consider the danger of driving a car while you’re sleepy and less than alert, the danger is clear. 

How our dentist can treat sleep apnea

In some cases, a simple oral appliance you wear at night is all it takes to keep your airway clear. We custom fit your appliance so it’s comfortable and easily tolerated. We offer SomnoMed® and ProSomnus® oral devices, which are proven to help stop snoring and relieve sleep apnea symptoms

We also offer the innovative OASYS Oral/Nasal Airway System™, the first device that addresses both obstructive sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome simultaneously. It repositions your jaw, dilates your nasal passages, and strengthens and trains your tongue and throat to prevent collapse.

If you’re a snorer who wakes up feeling exhausted with a headache and a dry mouth, it may be time for a visit to Hamada Family Dentistry to find out if you have sleep apnea. To schedule an appointment, call our friendly staff or book it online today.