Getting a good night’s sleep is important for overall health as well as a healthy appearance. In order to get a good night’s sleep, it’s important to stay asleep. Sleeping disorders like sleep apnea can disrupt sleep patterns. This can lead to fatigue, declining health and an unhealthy appearance.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which the muscles in the back of the throat relax while you sleep, obstructing airflow. When this happens, it keeps air from flowing freely through the air passageway into your lungs.
In order to remedy the situation, the brain wakes you up from your sleep so that you can free up your air passageway. This all happens so quickly that most people who suffer from this condition are not aware of it because they immediately fall back asleep. However, it’s usually only a matter of minutes or even seconds before it happens all over again.
Constant interruptions of the natural sleep cycle like this prevent you from reaching deeper, restful and restorative levels of sleep. It also keeps the oxygen levels in your blood from reaching and staying at healthy levels.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
The severity of sleep apnea can range from mild to severe. The severity of it often depends on what is causing it. The interruption of a constant airflow can be the result of a number of issues.
Sometimes just having a lean and bony frame can be the cause of sleep apnea. When an individual has a bony structure, the shape of the neck and the head might create a much smaller passageway size in the throat and mouth.
When a person is overweight, the extra mass around the lower facial and neck areas can press against the windpipe, reducing its size. When the size of the windpipe is reduced to dangerous levels, the brain sends signals to wake the body up, reducing pressure on the windpipe.
The natural aging process can be a cause of sleep apnea. As the efficiency of the brain declines with age, it might not send out the right signals to keep the throat muscles tight while you sleep, reducing the size of the airway to the lungs. This causes a reflex action to wake you up and clear the airway.
Risks of Sleep Apnea
The dangers of this troublesome sleep disorder are not limited to a restless night’s sleep. When the body’s oxygen levels drop at such regular intervals, it can cause the brain to release stress hormones into the body. This raises the heart rate and blood pressure. If sleep apnea goes untreated, it can cause outright havoc in the nervous system and possibly lead to heart disease and even heart failure.
The body will find ways to cope with the decrease in oxygen levels by regulating how the body uses available energy. This often leads to complications that cause diabetes and significant weight gain.
How Can It Be Treated?
The first step is to set up an appointment at Andover Smiles to gauge the seriousness of your sleep apnea. The sooner this disorder is treated, the sooner the body can begin to recover. Rather than using loud and bulky CPAP machines, we proudly use oral appliance therapy to prevent airway obstruction. This small device has helped many of our patients to sleep peacefully throughout the night. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at our office in North Andover to learn more.