What is Sleep Apnea?
Affecting nearly 22 million Americans, sleep apnea is a disorder which occurs during a person’s sleep when their breathing is interrupted and briefly stopped. These breaks can last anywhere from several seconds to a couple minutes throughout the night and oftentimes, many patients are unaware of it. When your body doesn’t receive any oxygen, the brain quickly recognizes it and briefly awakens you from your sleep, keeping you from enjoying a full night’s rest.
Dr. Jennifer Buchanan has firsthand experience managing her own TMJ issues and has progressed her knowledge to discover proper treatments for patients with sleep apnea. As a result, she will work closely with your San Rafael physician and sleep medicine specialists to improve sleep apnea awareness and identify the root of each unique case.
The Three Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is known as one of the most commonly misdiagnosed or completely undiagnosed disorders due to its many similar symptoms to other conditions. To help our patients become fully aware of sleep apnea, we want to help them understand the different types and how to detect if they may be suffering.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. OSA occurs when the muscles or soft tissue at the back of the throat relax during sleep and prevents proper airflow from entering the lungs. Typically, this can occur five to 30 times every hour throughout the night, completely interrupting a regular breathing pattern.
Often, treatments for OSA focus to keep the airway open to prevent extra tissue from obstructing the airway. Many physicians will initially recommend a continuous positive airway pressure first, but many patients prefer an oral appliance. For severe cases, a combination of the two treatments can also help clear the obstruction in the throat.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Rather than caused by a blockage in an airway, central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused when signals between the brain and lungs are disrupted. This causes sufferers to breathe very shallowly or can stop their breathing altogether as they sleep. As a result, treatment often requires a multi-discipline training plan in which sleep medicine specialists, neurologists, physicians, and orofacial specialists can construct.
Complex Sleep Apnea
In some severe instances, certain patients may develop complex sleep apnea, a form of the disorder in which both an obstruction occurs and signals of the brain and breathing patterns are lost. While research is ongoing regarding this type of sleep apnea, a major indicator of mixed sleep apnea is when diagnosed patients still fail to breathe correctly with CPAP and oral appliance therapy.
The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is known as a life-threatening disorder when ignored or mistreated. The sleep disorder can affect nearly anyone at any age and can put individuals at high risk for a number of health complications.
Major health risks associated with sleep apnea include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Stroke and heart complications
- High blood pressure
- Chronic headaches
- Liver problems
- Damaged relationships
Find Relief with Dr. Buchanan
Uncovering the truth behind your irritable attitude, daytime drowsiness, and disruptive snoring can be simple. Dr. Buchanan is specifically trained in aspects of dental sleep medicine. Her extensive background and understanding of the jaw and airway allow her to provide effective relief to anyone experiencing breathing problems at night.
If you’re unsure where to receive a proper diagnosis for your disorder, contact our San Rafael office today. Dr. Buchanan may recommend you to a local sleep physician or encourage you to schedule an appointment so she can administer an at-home sleep test.