Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour.
Similarly, each abnormally low breathing event is called a hypopnea. Sleep apnea is often diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram, or “sleep study”.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is extremely common and, in many cases, relatively harmless. Snoring is caused by constricted airways. The air that moves in and out during breathing causes parts of the nose, mouth, and throat to vibrate, producing noise.
Often times, loud and habitual snoring can be a sign of a much more serious sleep disorder – obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition that is potentially life-threatening and is one of the most under diagnosed of all sleep disorders. OSA is associated with obstructions of airflow to the lungs during sleep, preventing you from breathing for ten seconds or longer.
These disruptions in breathing cause the person to wake up periodically during the night, making the person extremely tired and irritable. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, thickening of the heart muscle and a potentially fatal irregular heart beat (arrhythmia).
If you think you might have a sleep disorder, see a physician. A sleep physician is responsible for detecting and diagnosis of sleep disorders and recommending treatment.
Oral Appliance for Sleep Apnea
Once diagnosis is made, a dentist can provide treatment by making an oral appliance specifically for sleep apnea. A sleep apnea dental appliance is a custom made device worn in the mouth during sleep.
It maintains an open airway in the throat while sleeping. It’s easy to wear and non-invasive.