Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that especially affects men, though 90% of cases go undiagnosed. A recent population study found that 13% of men had moderate to severe cases and another 14% mild cases. For women, the numbers were 6% with moderate or severe cases and 5% mild.
How Men are Affected
Men above 40 (and especially older than 65) are prone to the primary type known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is more likely when someone is sleeping on his back, obese, has a neck size 16 inches or greater, and a large tongue or tonsils. Other factors include having a small jaw, a deviated septum, sinus problems, and being a smoker. The likelihood of having sleep apnea increases if the individual had alcohol within a couple of hours of going to sleep or took tranquilizers or sedatives, since they relax the throat muscles.
The resulting combination of characteristics and circumstances leads to the blocking of the airway, which causes a pause in breathing, aka an apnea, which can happen 5-100 times in an hour. This pause alerts the brain to try to awaken the individual to take a deep breath, though he does not actually become conscious. The result is that when he does wake up in the morning, he has not had the benefits of restorative sleep.
Sleep Apnea can Create High Risk Conditions
The most dangerous immediate consequence is that when he drives to work, he may fall asleep at the wheel (sleep deprivation from all causes is estimated to cause 100,000 vehicle accidents a year). At best, he nods off in meetings, can’t focus or remember things, and is irritable.
If that were not enough, men who suffer from sleep apnea also have an increased incidence of erectile dysfunction and a higher risk than women for high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke.
The most common symptom of having sleep apnea is heavy and frequent snoring. If you or a partner do so, it should be diagnosed immediately. You may be surprised that Wilshire Smile Studio treats patients with sleep apnea. Dentists know more than most doctors about problems involving the mouth. They can provide a remedy for OSA, a customized FDA-approved oral appliance that is worn while sleeping, preventing the tongue or other tissue from blocking the airway.
If you or a partner snore a lot, call Wilshire Smile Studio ASAP for a full dental exam, a discussion of the symptoms of sleep apnea, and your options for better sleep.