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Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea – The Silent Killer

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Do loved ones constantly give you grief about your snoring? Do they complain about the nonstop sound, or the many interrupted nights of sleep your snoring has caused them?

Well, it’s time to take action. 

What Really Causes Snoring?

The direct cause of snoring is vibration of the soft tissues of your mouth and throat. During sleep, the muscles around these structures may relax to the point that your lower jaw and tongue fall back, blocking your airway. With a reduced airway, air is under more pressure which causes the soft tissues to vibrate, ie snoring. 

The underlying causes of snoring are many, including:

  • Excess body weight
  • Congestion
  • Sleep apnea
  • Use of drugs or alcohol

Any of these issues can lead to the relaxation of tissues in the mouth and throat, collapsing the airway to various degrees, thus resulting in snoring. 

Very heavy snoring and delayed breathing (of up to 10 seconds or more) or choking may indicate a severe condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Due to the serious cardiovascular threat it poses, sleep apnea should not be ignored.

So how does OSA work? According to the American Thoracic Society, when affected individuals sleep, the soft tissues in the back of the throat begin to relax as they breathe in, ultimately collapsing back to block the throat (upper airway). That’s one reason that heavy individuals who sleep on their backs typically have horrendous snoring; it’s the sound of these tissues vibrating heavily during breathing. But once that airway becomes blocked, the person simply stops breathing—for 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 seconds or more—till the brain senses mortal danger and finally signals a gasp for breath.

With so little oxygen in the blood, blood pressure quickly creeps upward in the afflicted, because the heart has to work harder. Such nocturnal increases in blood pressure can lead to hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) 24/7. The risk of having a stroke or a sudden cardiac arrest soars. In severe cases, OSA can trigger a heart attack in the middle of the night.

These breathless events can happen 30 or more times each hour, all night long. All too often, the individual who gasps isn’t fully awakened, and is completely unaware of what’s going on. Often their partner will give them the first indication—by sleeping on the couch. With their sleep constantly being interrupted, individuals who suffer from OSA can go weeks, months, even years without a truly deep, restful sleep.

Fragmented sleep leads to sleepiness and chronic fatigue during the day—additional signals that OSA is hard at work while its victim tries to rest. No wonder individuals with OSA are 4-6 times more likely to be involved in a car accident, as well as be impaired on the job or suffer other medical problems, including being three times more likely to have a stroke. The stealth factor is high with OSA: Symptoms may continue for years unnoticed as the person afflicted with OSA simply becomes conditioned to feeling tired all the time.

How to Stop Snoring and Treat Sleep Apnea

As many as 50 percent of people snore to some degree. Thankfully, most cases aren’t too serious and can be corrected with simple steps, such as:

  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • Using nasal strips or a humidifier while sleeping

Did You Know?

You might be surprised to learn that your Boise dentist can help you with your snoring problem if the above solutions don’t work out. 

Dr. Wagner can refer you to a trusted specialist that can help create a custom oral appliance to treat your snoring. They will take impressions and model the appliance for your mouth, precisely fitting it to your teeth. The custom device correctly positions your airway, helping to greatly reduce or eliminating your snoring.

They’ll also make sure the appliance fits properly, and adjust the fit as needed. It is recommended you put the appliance in 15-20 minutes prior to going to bed for the first couple of nights so you become accustomed to the feel and fit. The next morning, make sure to give your custom appliance a brush with toothpaste, then rinse and store for the next night’s use.

Ready to give yourself, and your loved ones, the peaceful night’s sleep everyone deserves? Give the Modern Dental team a call today to learn how they can help you get a great (and quiet) night’s sleep without all the snoring.

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