Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea and Snoring at Manoa Dental in Honolulu, Hawaii


What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea or obstructive sleep apnea otherwise known as OSA affects more than 18 million Americans each year. It has a higher prevalence in men than in women. It is associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson's, chronic inflammatory disease, the destruction of the stomatognathic system, and many other systemic diseases.  Symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness loud snoring, choking, or gasping for breath during sleep. Basically, the sleep apnea patient is choking himself/herself to death because the body is not getting enough oxygen. Long-term effects include stroke, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and, early death.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is caused by a narrowed airway in combination with the relaxation of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. In addition to the complete blockage of the air pathways, sleep apnea can be caused by neurological signaling failures. Sleep apnea prevents the brain from sending the correct nerve signal that initiates deep breathing. To reinitiate breathing, the brain wakes the body, causing patients to wake frequently throughout the night. 

Differentiating between Sleep Apnea and Snoring

It is important to note that snoring is an early form of sleep apnea. It is caused by a narrowed airway and the relaxation of the tissues at the back of the throat during sleep. Relaxation causes these tissues to partially block airflow, causing the vibrations and snoring sounds.

In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it is characterized by a narrowed airway and the complete blockage due to the collapse of tissues at the back of the throat during sleep, thus completely obstructing airflow. Attempts to compensate for the closure lead to the signature deep snoring as well as the choking or gasping as sufferers try to inhale.

Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea 

While sleep apnea can happen to anyone at any age, there are certain associated risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea. Among these risk factors include obesity, substance abuse and smoking, genetic predisposition, anatomy, age, and gender. 

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

Failure to diagnose and fully treat sleep apnea can lead to a number of secondary yet serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular distress, and sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea diagnosis is conducted through a comprehensive sleep study. Performed overnight at a sleep center lab or at home with special equipment, brain and muscle activity, breathing, heart rate, and oxygen levels are monitored by sleep specialists while the patient is asleep.  


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