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What is Sleep Apnea?

Most people have heard of sleep apnea or OSA, but what is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a breathing and sleep disorder that can negatively affect your health and wellness. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common, and central sleep apnea (CSA), a neurological disorder. At Northern Virginia Sleep Solutions, we provide services and treatment for OSA at our dental sleep center in Alexandria, VA.

A significant factor in how well you sleep begins in your mouth. Relaxed and continual breathing while you sleep allows you to reach the ideal level of REM sleep that your body needs. If your tongue or tissues in the back of your mouth block the top of the airway, it can interrupt breathing. This is common with obstructive sleep apnea, resulting in the stoppage of breathing for ten seconds or more, dozens or even hundreds of times per night.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

The soft palate in the back of the mouth contains the tonsils, uvula and tissues surrounding the top of the throat. When the muscles supporting the soft palate relax when you are sleeping, they can drop and cover the opening of the airway. This can cause the body to react, choking or gasping to get air, pulling the body out of sleep until the muscle contracts and moves the soft palate.

There are many contributors to obstructive sleep apnea. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Overweight or obese
  • Males are two to three times more likely to have OSA
  • Narrow airway or thicker throat
  • Use of alcohol or sedatives that relax the muscles
  • Smoking
  • Nasal obstructions or congestion

Certain medical or health conditions can also contribute to the risk of sleep apnea. Those with type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma and other conditions can increase the chance of OSA.

Sleep apnea can have severe impacts on your sleep quality and health. Northern Virginia Sleep Solutions offers non-invasive options to open the airway and provide better breathing while you sleep. To learn more about OSA treatment, contact our office in Alexandria, VA, to schedule your appointment.

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