Who doesn’t know—and usually gets annoyed—by a snore? Almost everyone does it, including babies. While some make that whistling or gurgling sound when tired, it may be a sign of something more serious health-wise for thousands.
Snoring is one of the landmark symptoms of a sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. It is a potentially life-threatening condition where a person’s breathing pauses while they’re asleep. It currently affects over a hundred million around the globe.
But what does sleep apnea tell about one’s health? How can an Invisalign dentist help manage it?
Sleep Apnea and Its Negative Association with Health
Anyone who experiences excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue despite a full night’s sleep, or snoring might want to visit their general practitioner or sleep specialist ASAP. Sleep apnea could increase the risk of severe chronic diseases, including heart disorders.
Over 10 years ago, the American Thoracic Society evaluated over 1,000 people for sleep apnea. Then they followed their health over the next four to five years. They particularly looked for any signs of cardiovascular events like a heart attack or death.
They then found out that sleep apnea could increase the odds of both cardiovascular events by as much as 30%. The researchers believed that sleep apnea could trigger the fight-or-flight mechanism.
These changes could then reduce the amount of oxygen the heart needs. As the condition is left untreated, the cardiac muscles experience oxygen starvation.
But that’s not all. In 2017, Johns Hopkins Medicine revealed more worrisome information about the sleeping disorder. According to it, it could cause negative metabolic changes when left untreated even for a few days:
- It can increase blood sugar levels.
- It stimulates the production of more stress hormones.
- Sleep apnea raises blood pressure.
- It worsens fat levels.
Many types of existing research also seemed to corroborate the results above. One of these is that of the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus. In 2016, it said that sleep apnea could lead to intermittent hypoxia or low levels of oxygen.
It also pointed out that the body could already lose its ability to regulate blood pressure within six hours of changing oxygen levels. Further, such impairment could occur even in healthy young adults who still haven’t experienced many years of sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Is Manageable
The good news is sleep apnea is both treatable and manageable. In many situations, it can be curable when the person addresses the underlying causes:
1. Deal with the Excess Weight
One of the biggest risk factors for sleep apnea is being overweight or obese. In a 2003 research in Hypertension, the sleeping disorder is present in over 35% of obese individuals. Meanwhile, at least 70% of obese patients suffer from the condition.
How does obesity cause sleep apnea? According to the Obesity Medicine Association, the excess body weight adds more pressure to the upper airways, causing them to collapse or relax. The extra fat also decreases lung volume that makes it more difficult to breathe.
Overweight or obese patients may also find themselves in a vicious cycle of weight gain. Sleep apnea can disturb sleep, and sleep deprivation can increase the levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
Meanwhile, it decreases the production of leptin, which promotes satiety. In other words, the sleeping disorder may contribute to the difficulty of controlling food intake.
2. See a Dentist
Besides obesity, scientists also found a strong correlation between sleep apnea and bruxism or teeth grinding. They still don’t know the exact reason, but most hypothesized that grinding one’s teeth could be a person’s involuntary coping mechanism to the changes brought about by the sleeping condition.
Either way, teeth grinding can affect dental health in the long run. It may lead to misaligned teeth or problematic arches, and both could contribute to worse sleep apnea.
In these situations, dentists, particularly orthodontists, can be helpful. They can fit oral appliances that fit snugly on the teeth that help clear the air’s passageway. Devices like Invisalign can correct malocclusions or teeth misalignments and issues with the arches.
3. Use CPAP
CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It is a device that features a mask worn during sleep, an air pump that delivers oxygen, and a tube that connects both. As its name suggests, it aims to keep the air’s passageway open while providing the body with continuous oxygen.
The Johns Hopkins Medicine study illustrated the benefits of CPAP in treating or managing sleep apnea. According to it, not using the device could increase the risk of recurrence of the condition. Patients that don’t use CPAP are also more likely to experience stiffness of the arteries and increased blood pressure in the morning.
Sleep apnea might be common, but it doesn’t change the fact that it can be life-threatening. But it is also manageable in a variety of ways.