Causes of Sleep Apnea

‘Apnea’ is a Greek term that means ‘without breath.’ It is hard to have uninterrupted sleep if your brain is always alerting your body to wake you up because of a lack of oxygen. Unfortunately, everyone who has Sleep Apnea is not always aware of waking in the night but only of being sleepy in the day. When a person with Sleep Apnea is waking up, sometimes hundreds of times a night or hardly sleeping at all, sleep quality suffers greatly and it’s no wonder people will find themselves tired.

Most people don’t realize this, but there are three forms of Sleep Apnea. The first is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which is the most common form. OSA refers to airflow being obstructed from entering through the nose or mouth. The second form is Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), which is a disorder of the central nervous system. There is a delay in the brain signal that tells your body to breathe, thus a person does not get enough oxygen when sleeping. In severe cases, a person may have a combination referred to as Mixed Sleep Apnea in which they experience a combination of OSA and CSA. The cause of each form is different and explained below in more depth.

OSA occurs when the muscles in the throat and tongue relax and the soft tissues collapse to block the airway. This is common for people (especially men) who are overweight because the extra soft tissue can block the airway, or the tongue and tonsils are larger in correlation to the airway. In addition to body weight, other factors that can increase the risk of having OSA include neck/head structure, age, active smoking, and diabetes.

CSA may occur as a result of other disorders such as heart failure, strokes, and kidney failure since these conditions interfere with the brain’s control over breathing. Additionally, use of drugs (heroine, cocaine, etc), head trauma, or brain surgery can affect the brainstems that command the body to breathe. CSA is very rare and occurs in maybe 0.4% of the population, but is a very dangerous form of Sleep Apnea that can lead to sudden death.

Our treatment is intended only for patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Patients with Central Sleep Apnea are often prescribed different treatments not available in our office.

Please click on problems to better understand the implications of untreated Sleep Apnea. If you live in Omaha, and think you may have Sleep Apnea, please call us today at (402) 493-4175 to speak to one of our dentists at Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center or contact us online.