Causes of Sleep Disorders
When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs. Generally, your throat muscles keep the throat and airway open. The site of obstruction in most patients is the soft palate, extending to the region at the base of the tongue. There are no rigid structures, such as cartilage or bone, in this area to hold the airway open. During the day, muscles in the region keep the passage wide open. But as a person with OSA falls asleep, these muscles relax to a point where the airway collapses and becomes obstructed.
Causes and risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea:
- Being overweight or obese
- Large tonsils or adenoids
- Distinctive physical attributes: deviated septum, shape of head and neck, receding chin, enlarged tongue
- Nasal congestion or blockage
- Throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal during sleep.
In adults, the most typical individual with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome suffers from a decrease in muscle tone causing airway collapse and sleep apnea.
Excessive weight is also a cause for OSA in adults and children which results in symptoms of restlessness, exhaustion, and forgetfulness.
Unlike adults, obstructive sleep apnea in children can be caused by obstructive tonsils and adenoids. This may be cured with surgery (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy), though a full evaluation is necessary to confirm the root cause of the sleep disorder. A non-invasive treatment plan could prove more productive and provide better long-term results.
Sleep Apnea Signs and Symptoms
Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) include unexplained daytime sleepiness, restless sleep, and loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps).
Less common symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- morning headaches
- trouble concentrating
- mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, and depression
- increased heart rate and/or blood pressure
- decreased sex drive
- unexplained weight gain
- changes in urination
- frequent heartburn and heavy night sweats.
Adults have been found to be at higher risk if they are a male, obese, of an increasing age, have anatomic abnormalities of the upper airway, a family history of sleep apnea, use alcohol or sedatives frequently, are a smoker, or experience hypertension.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment
While it is possible to use questionnaires and visual evaluation to screen for suspected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the primary method for diagnosing OSA is to have the patient undergo an overnight sleep study, known as polysomnography (PSG). This study measures and records a number of different physiologic variables during sleep such as airflow, oxygen levels, brain activity, and respiratory effort.
The diagnostic polysomnographic studies (PSG) must be read by certified sleep physicians and most commonly provided in an overnight sleep lab. We are happy to provide, by request, the names of sleep physicians and sleep labs with whom we work.
Once diagnosed, several treatment options exist for dealing with OSA:
These include lifestyle changes such as an exercise and weight-loss regimen or medical intervention such as the addition of a sleeping device or a dental orthotic. These can help to create long-term, healthy sleeping patterns. Nasal CPAP (continuous positive air pressure), full-mask CPAP, or surgery are options for severe sleep apnea. Dental orthopedic appliances are a successful option for mild and moderate sleep apnea and are much more tolerated by users.
A sleep apnea dental appliance compliance tracker can help your medical teams understand how well treatment is working so we can all ensure your optimal health.
Another treatment option we’re excited to offer is NightLase®. Using two special lasers, we can shrink tissues to increase the tone of the soft palate area (roof of your mouth). As your tissues shrink and tone, so does their contribution to snoring and sleep apnea. In fact – many people notice a remarkable difference after just one treatment! Depending on your unique situation, treatment may consist of 3 or more 20-minute treatments. People with severe snoring or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) may require more sessions. After you have felt the optimal results, you will just need an annual maintenance appointment, although severe cases may need to be treated twice a year after the initial sessions.
Benefits of NightLase Treatment
- Increased nasal breathing – the air you breath is filtered and moistened before reaching your lungs.
- Better energy & endurance – the production of Nitric Oxide while nose breathing lets your body absorb more oxygen.
- Reduction of exaggerated gag reflex – an enlarged uvula (the fleshy tissue hanging at the back of your throat) can cause breathing issues and an exaggerated gag reflex. Treating this area diminished issues.
- Decreased snoring frequency and tone – patients enjoy an average 50% reduction in snoring volume and tone after the very first treatment.
- Better sleep for both the sufferer and their bed partner – restful sleep is responsible for memory, muscle growth & recovery, fat burning, and hormone regulation.
Side Effects of Interrupted Sleep
While smoking can take an average of 7-10 years off your lifespan, untreated OSA can take 12+ years. And of the 67% of people who snore at night, 80% have some sort of sleep apnea. This can lead to hypertension, headaches, migraines, increased acid reflux symptoms, ADHD, weight gain, daytime fatigue, depression and more. What’s worse is that this lack of oxygen can also contribute to cardiovascular issues like heart attack and stroke. Men can experience impotence or erectile dysfunction and women can suffer from TMJ (jaw joint) dysfunction, low sex drive, and increased stress hormone cortisol – the one we know is responsible for stress and weight gain.
Sleep Symptoms for Children
Sleep disorders in children are conditions that prevent them from getting a full night’s rest on a regular basis. There are many children who, at some time(s), experience problems sleeping. The National Institutes of Health identify more than 100 disorders of sleeping and waking. Many of these issues are normal and may not be classified as a sleep disorder but proper diagnosis is required because an undiagnosed condition of obstructive sleep apnea can not only increase in severity as the child ages, it can become life threatening.
Some of the most common sleep disorders and problems are:
- Childhood insomnia
- Sleep apnea in children
- Nightmares and night terrors
Obstructive sleep apnea in children is being increasingly recognized as a cause of attention and behavior problems as well as learning and developmental problems.