Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally “low” breathing, during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called either apnea or hypopnea (respectively), can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur multiple times in an hour.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome is the most common type of sleep apnea and is caused by obstruction of the upper airway. Since the muscle tone of the body ordinarily relaxes during sleep, and because at the level of the throat, the human airway is composed of walls of soft tissue -which can collapse- it is easy to understand how breathing can be obstructed during sleep.
The individual with OSA is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening although he or she may feel fatigued, sleepy, restless, etc. It is also recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes of snoring or gasping for air - or is suspected because of its effects on the body (weight gain, high blood pressure, to mention a few).
Many people experience episodes of obstructive sleep apnea for only a short period of time. This can be the result of an upper respiratory infection that causes nasal congestion, along with swelling of the throat, or tonsillitis that temporarily produces very enlarged tonsils. Temporary spells of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome may also occur in individuals who are under the influence of a drug (such as alcohol) that may relax their body tone excessively and interfere with normal arousal from sleep mechanisms.
In dentistry, we are able to have custom sleep apnea appliances fabricated for patients to wear while sleeping that provide a better airway and reduce the harmful effects of Sleep Apnea.
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