Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing frequently stops and restarts. Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that can cause heart problems, high blood pressure, stroke and other complications. There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome. If you think you might have symptoms of sleep apnea, please consult your doctor.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles of the tongue and the back of your throat relax. When these muscles relax, the airway narrows, making it hard to breathe. When your body doesn't get enough oxygen in your blood, your brain senses this and wakes you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. When this happens, you may snort, choke or gasp. This pattern can happen up to 30 times per hour, essentially putting the body into "fight or flight" mode all night long and preventing the restful, restorative sleep that our body needs to function at its best. This can lead to serious health issues.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Obesity: Those with a neck circumference of greater than 16 inches for women and 17 inches for men often have excessive fat in the neck area, which contributes to crowding and narrowing of the airway
- Age: Greater prevalence with increasing age
- Gender: Men are more likely to have it than women.
- Smoking and drug use
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Having a high, narrow palate: Results in a low resting tongue posture and mouth breathing.
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids, particularly in children: Undiagnosed sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing in children can lead to excessive daytime tiredness with the related symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone. If you think you might sleep have apnea, please consult your doctor right away. The good news is that myofunctional therapy can also help!
Myofunctional Therapy and Sleep Apnea
Myofunctional therapy can help to strengthen the muscles of the face, throat and the tongue, helping the tongue to move up against the palate and out of the airway. This proper resting position of the tongue can also help to promote proper craniofacial development in growing children and teens, often resulting in a broader nasal airway and a reduced incidence of obstructive sleep apnea. Myofunctional therapy has been shown to help those with obstructive sleep apnea to reduce their AHI (apnea/hypopnea index, or the number of times they either stop breathing/experience reduced oxygen levels while they sleep) by as much as 50%, leading to better quality sleep and an overall reduction in sleep apnea symptoms.