As the seasons change, so does the humidity in the air. Unfortunately, lower humidity levels can worsen symptoms for those who suffer from sleep apnea. Not only is the atmosphere dry indoors, but furnaces and fireplaces can further dry the air in your home as well.
It’s essential to be proactive with your dental and overall health. Dr. Stephen Coates shares more about sleep apnea below – including what it is, its symptoms and treatments, and how your dental professional can help.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which sufferers briefly stop breathing throughout the night while sleeping. These breaks in breathing can last from mere seconds to actual minutes. Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough oxygen enters the body and not enough carbon dioxide exits. The brain then sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up and restart breathing.
There are two main types of this disorder:
- Central sleep apnea – This happens when the brain fails to send necessary signals to the breathing muscles.
- Obstructive sleep apnea – This occurs when air cannot flow through the nose or mouth even though your body is still trying to breathe. This version of sleep apnea is more common and easily treatable by your dentist.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Identifying sleep apnea early is important, because it can lead to cardiovascular issues, hypertension, and stroke. Individuals who are overweight, smokers, or older in age are prone to sleep apnea. If you frequently grapple with nasal congestion, this may be a sign that you have sleep apnea.
The same goes for those who snore, as this may signal obstruction in your airway. If you find that you wake each morning feeling drowsy after sleeping all night, this could also be a sign that you need to be evaluated for sleep apnea. Patients also complain of morning headaches and restlessness, so also consider those as potential symptoms.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Just as your dentist helps your oral health, they can also screen for sleep apnea. By using X-rays to identify any significant tissue in the throat or blockage, your dentist can tell you if you have a higher risk for sleep apnea issues and will help you with treatment from there. Some dentists also use high resolution pulse oximeters to screen for sleep breathing disorders. These devices monitor the oxygen & heart rates while you sleep which can show the clinician if you are having a problem.
Sleep Apnea in Winter Months
Breathing issues due to sleep apnea are made worse by the chilly air and lower humidity. Cold air causes dry nasal passages, decreasing the mucus that would otherwise help ward off germs. Patients with stuffy noses, fevers, and sore throats can also experience worsened snoring.
Possible Treatments for Sleep Apnea
Dentists use oral appliances to treat sleep apnea, such as tongue depressors and Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT). The depressor will hold your tongue so it can’t go to the back of your throat as you sleep, while the OAT juts your jaw forward and opens your airway.
When you’re at home, use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Individual humidifiers can help to improve the humidity in one room, or you can opt for a whole-house humidifier to keep everyone comfortable.
Severe cases of sleep apnea will require a CPAP machine that offers a continuous flow of oxygen during your sleep.
Get Help for Sleep Apnea from Dr. Stephen A Coates, DDS
Sleep apnea can be frightening, but you aren’t alone. If you snore or have any other sleep apnea symptoms, get screened and discuss your treatment options with Dr. Coates. To get your screening for sleep apnea and protect your oral health throughout the year, schedule your appointment with the Office of Dr. Stephen A. Coates, DDS, today!