Serious snoring can certainly cause a bed partner to lose sleep, but can snoring be dangerous to the snorer? |
Studies say yes. The connection between heart disease and sleep apnea is rapidly evolving. Patients with cardiovascular issues such as heart failure, arrhythmias, and high blood pressure also have a high incidence of sleep apnea. And studies are showing more and more that sleep apnea can also cause high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and heart failure. This cycle can continue, causing both conditions to worsen. Consequences can become life-threatening.
In fact, research shows untreated sleep apnea raises the risk of death from heart disease by up to five times.
What is Sleep Apnea?
The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive. This is when the upper airway is blocked or collapses during sleep. With each closing of the airway, the patient experiences a pause in breathing.
A sleep study is needed to get a definitive diagnosis of sleep apnea. During the sleep study, the pauses in breathing are counted.
Mild sleep apnea is characterized by 5-15 episodes of paused breathing per hour.
Moderate sleep apnea means your breathing pauses 15-30 times per hour.
With severe sleep apnea, the patient's breathing pauses more than 30 times each hour.
Each pause in breathing causes a patient to gasp for air, which wakes the sleeper. Often, the patient is awake so briefly they don't even realize they woke up. But each time the patient wakes, they are pulled out of deep sleep. This prevents restful sleep, which causes significant patient fatigue.
Another consequence of the pauses in breathing involves the heart. Each time the patient stops breathing, oxygen levels drop. The decreased oxygen levels cause the body to release a stress hormone known as epinephrine, or adrenaline, to increase oxygen to the heart. This hormone is also known as the "fight or flight" response, as it gives people the ability to fight harder and stronger than they normally could or to run away faster than they normally run. Side effects of adrenaline include increased heart rate and blood pressure.
The more times a patient stops breathing during sleep, the more often they experience a release of adrenaline. Decreased oxygen levels at night can also trigger daytime events.
Over time, these bursts of adrenaline contribute to the progression of cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, arrhythmia, and high blood pressure.
What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is obesity, which results in a loss of tone in the muscles. It can also cause fat deposits in the upper airway, effectively narrowing it. Approximately two-thirds of those with OSA are overweight. Obesity is also a major contributor to heart disease. This puts the patient in a vicious cycle, as sleep apnea can also lead to further obesity, which increases heart disease. This is significant, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Another common cause of OSA is high blood pressure, which is also a major risk factor for heart disease. This is yet another vicious cycle, as OSA can worsen high blood pressure, which in turn worsens OSA and increases the risk of heart disease.
Other risk factors for OSA include:
Large tonsils Large neck circumference Narrowed airway Alcohol consumption Smoking Diabetes Being male Post-menopausal females Having asthma Chronic nasal congestion Family history (genetics) Hypothyroidism Acromegaly Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Approximately one-fifth of all adults have some form of sleep apnea, and the most common symptom is loud snoring. Most often, it is a sleeping partner or roommate who is affected by the snoring, so patients who live alone may miss this important sign.
It is important to note, however, that not all snorers have OSA. If your partner complains of your snoring, ask if you have ever stopped breathing. A non-OSA snorer will continue to inhale and exhale while sleeping.
Another common symptom is daytime fatigue. The patient may continuously feel tired and is more prone to accidents and falling asleep when they don't mean to. This is due to the inability of the patient to get enough restful sleep.
Other common signs and symptoms of OSA include:
Waking up gasping for air Morning headaches Insomnia Inattention during the day Waking up with a dry mouth Irritability Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Studies show that once OSA is treated, blood pressure often returns to normal quickly.
If you suspect OSA, you will need to have a sleep study. Seek help from someone qualified and experienced in sleep apnea disorders and treatment, such as a sleep medicine dentist.
After consultation, evaluation, and diagnostic testing, a sleep medicine dentist will make recommendations for proven treatments based on your underlying cause.
There are several treatment options for OSA, and your healthcare professional will help you find the best one for you.
One option may be a customized mouthpiece that keeps the airway open by pulling the jaw forward.
Another option may be for a minimally invasive procedure, such as a Laser Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)
Another great option is using a bedside bi-PAP or CPAP machine. These both utilize a small facial mask to deliver pressurized oxygen. The pressure keeps the airway open while sleeping, allowing you to maintain normal oxygen levels and achieve restful sleep.
Even if your snoring is not related to sleep apnea, it can still be a bothersome problem. A sleep medicine dentist can help you and your bed partner get a better night's rest.
For more information, visit our website or call us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tye.
Dr. Chris Tye TXOSS.com Colleyville, Texas Oral Surgeon 817-552-3223
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