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The Most Common Causes of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a frustrating condition that prevents you from getting a good night's sleep. Your airway becomes blocked, causing you to stop breathing suddenly. These episodes occur repeatedly throughout the night, resulting in a much less than restful amount of sleep. While the basic cause of sleep apnea is an obstruction, the obstruction itself can be caused by a number of other issues. Knowing the exact cause is key to figuring out the best way to treat sleep apnea.

In this blog, the sleep specialist at eos dental sleep will explain the most common causes of sleep apnea.

What Exactly Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, OSA -- they all describe the same thing: a cessation of breathing while you sleep. These episodes of not breathing are intermittent and short; eventually the obstruction either moves or you wake up. When the obstruction keeps recurring you don't get a full night's sleep, you don't experience full restful sleep cycles, and you experience constant bouts of oxygen deprivation.

What Symptoms Do People With Sleep Apnea Experience?

You may have sleep apnea and not realize it because the symptoms that you experience when you're awake can stem from so many potential conditions. However, if you have any of the following -- or more crucially, a combination of any of the following -- you may have sleep apnea:

  • Sore throat or dry mouth upon awakening
  • The feeling that you've been choking or gasping
  • Headache
  • Unexplained heartburn
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mental fogginess or an inability to concentrate
  • Moodiness
  • The feeling that you just haven't gotten a good night's sleep even if you slept for a long time
  • Reports of snoring, gasping, or snorting (many cases of sleep apnea are initially discovered by a bed partner)

What Are the Most Common Causes of Sleep Apnea?

The most common causes of sleep apnea, or rather, the obstruction that causes it, range from tissue blocking your throat when you lie down to sleeping in an odd position to having too much fat surrounding your airways.

When you lie down, usually on your back, loose tissue or fat deposits can sag down, blocking off your airway. Your jaw can move slightly down if you sleep on your back, too, cutting off your airflow. Or, you could be sleeping in such a way that your neck ends up bent in an awkward position that makes it harder to breathe. At some point, the lack of air makes you snort, turn over, wake up, or do something to move the obstruction. Generally, though, once you settle back down, the obstruction occurs again.

What Treatment Options Exist for Sleep Apnea?

The treatments for sleep apnea depend on the causes of sleep apnea. The basic treatment used for many cases of sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is the mask that is so often associated with the condition. However, not everyone likes using the bulky mask, and they want less drastic treatments. Oral appliance therapy is one such treatment, where an oral appliance -- these look like night guards -- is made to fit your mouth and to hold your jaws in such a way that loose tissue won't sag or your jaw won't droop down.

If you suspect that you have been snoring or that your discomfort may be due to one or more of the causes of sleep apnea, contact eos dental sleep in Philadelphia. We can set you up with our sleep specialist, who can evaluate your situation and give you a proper diagnosis. You need a good night's rest to live life properly -- don't let sleep apnea symptoms go untreated.