5 Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
Home / Blog / 5 Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea Treatment: Risk Factors
Sleep apnea is not a one-size-fits-all condition. There are many risk factors that can cause sleep apnea to develop. Understanding your particular situation is the only way to determine the right course of action when it comes to sleep apnea treatment. If you’re worried you may develop sleep apnea, this blog is for you. Keep reading to learn more about sleep apnea treatment and the five major risk factors for developing sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common condition in which your breathing stops and restarts many times while you sleep, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This can prevent your body from getting enough oxygen. You may want to talk to your healthcare provider about sleep apnea if someone tells you that you snore or gasp during sleep or if you experience other symptoms of poor-quality sleep, such as excessive daytime sleepiness.
The article continues that, to diagnose sleep apnea, your provider may have you do a sleep study. Breathing devices such as continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machines and lifestyle changes are common sleep apnea treatments. If these treatments do not work, surgery may be recommended to correct the problem that is causing your sleep apnea. If your sleep apnea is not diagnosed or treated, you may not get enough good quality sleep. This can lead to trouble concentrating, making decisions, remembering things, or controlling your behavior. Sleep apnea is also linked to serious health problems.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are two types of sleep apnea. Depending on the type of sleep apnea you have, there can be many different causes for why you are suffering from it. The two types of sleep apnea include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: When your upper airway becomes blocked many times while you sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow. This is the most common type of sleep apnea. Anything that could narrow your airways, such as obesity, large tonsils, or changes in your hormone levels, can increase your risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
- Central sleep apnea: When your brain does not send the signals needed to breathe. Health conditions that affect how your brain controls your airway and chest muscles can cause central sleep apnea.
If you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, it is highly likely that you are experiencing one of the five major risk factors for sleep apnea. These risk factors include age, anatomy, certain health issues, lifestyle habits, and obesity. Some of these risk factors are relatively easy to adjust and overcome your sleep apnea symptoms. Others require more treatment and can take more time to resolve.
5 Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can occur at any age. In fact, children can be diagnosed with sleep apnea. However, the risk of developing sleep apnea increases with age. This is because fatty tissue builds up around the neck over time and can cause an obstruction during sleep.
Certain aspects of a person’s natural anatomy can be a risk factor for sleep apnea to develop. Some of these include:
- Large tonsils
- Thick neck
- Jaw alignment
- Genetics; family history of sleep apnea
- Poor dental health
For some of these, a simple surgery can take care of the sleep apnea symptoms, such as removing the tonsils, doing dental work to fix oral issues, or surgery on another natural growth blocking the airway during sleep. For things like jaw misalignment or thick neck issues, steps can be made to remedy the issue. These include things like Myofunctional Therapy, weight loss, braces, and more.
Certain Health Issues
Suffering from any of the following preexisting conditions puts you at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea and requiring sleep apnea treatment:
- Heart or kidney failure can cause fluid to build up in the neck, which can block the upper airway.
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Myasthenia gravis
Certain lifestyle habits can increase your risk of developing sleep apnea. Generally, eliminating these habits can greatly improve your sleep apnea symptoms. While some may be more difficult to quit than others, there are many resources available to help you through the difficult time of quitting these habits and changing your life. This is because suffering from sleep apnea carries a host of dangerous and deadly health risks.
- Alcohol. Drinking alcohol, especially close to bedtime, can make the muscles of your mouth and throat relax. Alcohol is a sedative, and the relaxation of these muscles due to alcohol may close your upper airway.
- Smoking. Smoking causes a large number of health issues; sleep apnea being one of them. Smoking can cause inflammation in the upper airway, which can cause an obstruction during sleep.
- Certain medications. Some medications, such as muscle relaxers, can slow down your breathing rate and cause your throat muscles to relax too much, which can close the airway and cause an obstruction.
- Manage your sleep positioning. Your throat is most likely to close while lying on your back. Doing your best to sleep on your side can greatly improve your breathing while sleeping.
- Clearing congestion. People who suffer from chronic allergies or congestion are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea. By managing your congestion, you can reduce that risk.
Obesity is one of the most common causes of sleep apnea. In fact, approximately two-thirds of people with OSA are overweight or obese. This is because extra fat tissue builds up around the neck, which can cause an obstruction.
For most people who have obesity and sleep apnea, losing weight will greatly reduce their sleep apnea symptoms or allow it to go away entirely. Eating healthy and exercising is not only great for your health in general, but it will help you lower your risk of many health complications due to obesity, including sleep apnea.
Do I Have to Treat Sleep Apnea?
If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, or that your partner is suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to seek sleep apnea treatment as soon as possible. Obstructive sleep apnea has been associated with a higher risk of a diverse range of health problems, including:
- Car accidents from drowsy driving
- Cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, heart disease, and an abnormal heartbeat
- Metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes
- Pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs that place excess strain on the heart
- Thinking problems such as impaired memory and concentration
- Mood disturbances, including irritability and a higher risk of depression
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is an increase in fat deposits in the liver that can contribute to serious liver damage
- Anesthesia-related complications during surgery
Sleep Apnea Treatment
When sleep apnea is addressed with the proper treatment, risks associated with the condition are significantly reduced. The first step toward sleep apnea treatment is to seek a sleep apnea diagnosis. After receiving a sleep apnea diagnosis, Dr. Gorman will talk about symptoms, review medical history, and may perform a scan utilizing state-of-the-art dental technology to evaluate possible obstructions. After this, Dr. Gorman will create a personalized treatment plan with the goal of improving their nighttime breathing. This often involves the use of a custom-fitted dental appliance the patient will wear while sleeping.
If the patient’s sleep apnea is caused by the tongue relaxing in the throat, a tongue-retaining device may be the ideal treatment for maintaining an open airway. Should an abnormal jaw position be causing breathing difficulties, Dr. Gorman may recommend a special device to correct this alignment, such as a mouthpiece or a device strapped around the head. Oral devices used to address sleep apnea are removable and typically resemble athletic mouthguards.
Sleep Apnea Treatment with Gorman Health and Wellness
Dr. Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.
Together, the application of these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.
“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour, allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.
For more information on Dr. Gorman and improving your sleep apnea, contact us today.