Continuing along with the same theme. There are several more short articles that will follow. I feel very strongly on the need to recognize sleep and airway problems. The correlation with Neuromuscular dentistry is very intimate and something I feel very strong about.

Snoring is not just a bad habit that affects anywhere from 30% of women to more than 40% of men. The act of snoring can be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder called sleep apnea, which, if left untreated, can lead to neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular problems including depression, congestive heart failure, even stroke.

Medical dictionaries define snoring as a rough, rattling noise made while breathing during sleep, caused by the vibration of the back of the roof of the mouth and the uvula (dangling structure at the back of the mouth). When a person inhales and exhales, air is on its way to the lungs, traveling past the tongue, through the soft palate, uvula, and tonsils. When awake, the muscles in the back of the throat tighten, holding these structures in place, which prevents them from collapsing and vibrating in the airway. For a patient who experiences sleep apnea symptoms, the soft palate and uvula may collapse during sleep, resulting in snoring, cessation of breath or choking.

More important than damaging personal relationships, the act of persistent snoring can be a symptom of a sleep-breathing disorder that narrows the airway and decreases oxygen flow to the brain. Often one of the leading sleep apnea symptoms, snoring can also contribute to the development of high blood pressure, as well as heart and lung complications, and thus, should be taken very seriously.

Frequent snoring is one of many sleep apnea symptoms, which include partial or complete cessation during sleep, reductions in blood oxygen levels, severe sleep fragmentation, or excessive daytime sleepiness. One of the more severe sleep apnea symptoms involves the complete cessation of breathing during sleep, which is a sign of moderate to severe sleep apnea. In this instance, patients experience a pattern of snoring where the patient snores loudly up to a certain point where, for a period of time—about 10 seconds or longer—they’ll stop breathing completely. Then all of a sudden, the sleeping patient will open their mouth and gasp for air, sometimes experiencing a choking sensation. This vicious cycle can repeat itself several times an hour, during a single night.

Loud snoring, or periods of sleep where the patient does not receive air for 10 seconds or more are two obstructive sleep apnea symptoms that lead to two significant, but treatable medical problems: 1) Neuropsychiatric problems–patients are frequently significantly sleep deprived, which can lead to depression, cognitive changes, anxiety, or personality changes. 2) Cardiovascular problems such as hypertension, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or even cerebral vascular disease including stroke.

Sleep apnea symptoms and signs are often overlooked, because most people discount snoring to gender, age or genetics, however the lack of restful sleep can contribute to a variety of medical conditions and disorders unrelated to sleep including weight gain, muscle fatigue and pain, acid reflux disease, or more. This is why it is necessary to speak with your dentist about treatment options if you or your loved ones experience any sleep apnea symptoms or snoring, so you and your family can improve the quality of your health—one night at a time.

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