Here at Dentalux we’ve spent a significant amount of blog space focused on sleep apnea, and for good reason—the condition is significant. Much of what we wrote deep-dived how the dental industry should be seen as part of the frontline of defense against sleep apnea. We also explored the many treatments available including the Vivos System, an FDA-cleared approach to treating sleep apnea.
So what’s next? Well, we haven’t spent quite as much time on the very serious complications that can occur for people with sleep apnea. Ditto for all the risk factors that can lead to sleep apnea in the first place.
Risk factors of sleep apnea
What follows is a list of the most common risk factors and what you can do about them.
- Excess weight. So much of what’s involved with what causes sleep apnea is beyond your control. That’s not the case with this particular risk factor. Sure, we were born with a basic metabolism that makes it easier or harder for some folks to shed pounds. However, the old-fashioned concept of burning the calories you take in still matters. Read that again, you may not have to cut calories, you just have to make sure the amount you take in matches the amount you burn off. Simple tweaks to your normal diet can make a big difference. Example: quinoa over rice. Rice is a real food and there’s really nothing wrong with it being in your diet. However, compared to quinoa it has the same amount of calories but with less protein and other nutrients. Those cravings we seem to get at the wrong time are often triggered by a nutrient deficiency. So switching up how often you eat rice versus quinoa could go a long way.
- Neck circumference. We all have a particular area of our body where weight gain expresses itself first or most or worse. For some of us, it’s the neck. So, see list item number 1. But know this: lymph node inflammation is a main cause of neck size increase. That means both your dental and medical healthcare team may need to help solve this one.
- Nasal congestion. An obstructed airway is the cause and, really, the definition to a certain extent of sleep apnea. Our other blogs on the topic address the several structural issues involved here with the jaw and throat. What we don’t want to overlook, however, is how nasal congestion can increase the airway complications exponentially. Colds, allergies, sinus irritation, nose acne (it’s a thing) and more can clog up the olfactory system.
- Being male. Surgery and hormones can take care of this one, so … All joking aside, the prevalence of sleep apnea is higher for men than women. There are two main structural reasons: larger neck size, longer airway. Therefore, see item number 1.
- Being older. Invent a time machine. Actually, that wouldn’t help either because at some point you’ll be in the future as old as you’d always be. Plus, according to the late physicist Stephen Hawking, time travel is possible, but the journey would stretch you out, like a noodle, to infinity. And, according to us, that would definitely obstruct your airway. On a more practical note, consider that as we all age, our body needs more recovery time to mitigate the impact from things like alcohol, nicotine or other drugs. Everything in moderation gets more and more important for individuals with every trip around the Sun.
Complications from sleep apnea
Mental health challenges. The first complication that typically arises with your sleep apnea is your sleep partner. He or she will likely notice the problem first because it’s keeping them awake. Now, if they break your heart by dumping you over it, you hopefully get over it by realizing you’re better off without them. The entire process though is made harder by the fact that most humans are grumpier when sleep deprived. So it may be the case that neither of you are giving each other your best.
Machine operation challenges. The quality of your sleep is also at issue and leads to daytime fatigue. How serious an issue is that? A UC San Diego School of Medicine research team, which included investigators from the U.S. and Canada, analyzed vehicle accident data from 1980 to 2003. They concluded that at least 1,400 vehicle-related deaths occur every year due to sleep apnea. Now consider how many men operate heavy equipment and how many of those men have sleep apnea. You get the idea.
Physical health challenges. As if car crashes and heartbreak weren’t bad enough … From heart attack and stroke to liver problems, Type 2 diabetes and bad reaction to meds, the slap-you-the-face physical complications are many, and often. Snoring is serious. And we can help.