Does it seem like sleep apnea has been mentioned more often recently in the news and advertisements? You’re not imagining things. According to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, obstructive sleep apnea has grown much more prevalent over the last two decades. In fact, it’s estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea today. Why is sleep apnea on the rise? Keep reading to find out.
Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
These are the biggest risk factors that contribute to sleep apnea.
Researchers believe that an increase in the rate of obesity is one of the biggest reasons why sleep apnea is on the rise. Fat accumulation in the neck can weigh down the upper airways. When your muscles relax while you sleep, this added pressure can cause your airways to collapse. On the flip side, losing weight can help fight obstructive sleep apnea. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and visiting a doctor regularly enables you to reduce your weight and get your sleep back on track.
Everyone already knows that smoking is bad for your lungs and your overall health. However, you may not know that smoking can also negatively affect your quality of sleep. Smoking tobacco causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway, restricting the passage of air. So, it’s no surprise that studies show smokers are three times more likely to have sleep apnea than nonsmokers. In case you need one more reason to quit smoking, now you know!
Medical Conditions and Family History
Certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic lung disease, can increase the risk of sleep apnea. In addition, the shape of your jawbone and natural tongue placement – both genetically inherited traits – can affect whether you experience sleep apnea.
Many people enjoy a nightcap, aka an alcoholic beverage, right before they go to bed. However, alcohol is a depressant that can relax your throat and airways, affecting your ability to breathe. To avoid increasing your chances of experiencing an apneic event (breathing interruption), avoid drinking alcohol for at least four hours before going to bed.
Treating Sleep Apnea
In addition to the healthy behaviors mentioned above, professional treatment from a dentist can also help you overcome sleep apnea. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the traditional way to treat sleep apnea. A CPAP machine pumps air through a facemask that must be worn at night. While this device is effective at maintaining airflow, many patients have trouble comfortably sleeping while wearing the CPAP mask.
A more comfortable and convenient way to treat sleep apnea is through oral appliance therapy. An oral appliance is a small custom-made mouthpiece worn at night that repositions the jaw to prevent the airway from becoming blocked.
While sleep apnea is on the rise across the country, around 80% of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed. For this reason, don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist about whether you could benefit from sleep apnea treatment.
About the Author
Dr. Vladimir Pastouk has over two decades of experience helping patients overcome sleep apnea. He provides comfortable oral appliance therapy at this conveniently located private practice in Pepper Pike. To learn more about sleep apnea treatment, visit the Dental & Cosmetic Solutions website or call 216-292-3600.