Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep breathing disorder that can reveal itself through many kinds of symptoms, and sometimes through serious health issues. How much do you know about who it might affect, the problems it can cause, and the available treatments? Take our quiz.
1. Obstructive sleep apnea affects:
a. Mostly adults who snore
b. Children and adults
c. Mostly adults under age 40
d. Mostly adults over age 40
2. Which is true for people with obstructive sleep apnea?
a. They may breathe primarily through their mouths while they are awake
b. They stop breathing for short periods over and over while they sleep
c. They may not realize they have a sleep breathing issue
d. All of the above
3. Symptoms of OSA can include:
b. Weight gain and impotency
c. Excessive sleepiness and memory issues
d. All of the above and more
4. Risk factors for OSA can include:
a. Overbite and/or crowded teeth
b. Smoking and alcohol use
c. Excess weight
d. All of the above and more
5. OSA has been linked to major health issues that include:
a. Cardiovascular disease
c. High blood pressure, hypertension, and stroke
d. All of the above
6. When is snoring an indication of obstructive sleep apnea?
c. Only when it’s really loud
7. To get treatment for OSA, patients:
a. Will always require the help of an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist)
b. Will always need to use a CPAP machine
c. May find relief and solutions through working with a specially trained dentist
d. Usually require surgery
Are you ready to find out how you did?
1. Obstructive sleep apnea can affect children and adults.
If you chose answer B, you’re correct. Babies and children with upper airway blockages may experience sleep disorders resulting from breathing difficulty. In extreme cases, these disorders can include obstructive sleep apnea. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in children are a common reason for this issue. Other reasons might include an underdeveloped jaw, a misaligned bite, or a high palate.
Other common sleep disorders in children can include bedwetting, insomnia, nightmares and night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and snoring. In some cases, these disorders may be related to obstructive sleep apnea, but only a professional evaluation can determine this.
Adults of any age can also experience obstructive sleep apnea, with the risk increasing after age 40. Other factors—including ethnicity, facial structure, neck size, and more—can also raise an individual’s risk. However, even those who don’t meet these criteria can develop this condition.
2. Here’s what happens during OSA.
Answer D is correct. In OSA sufferers, the soft tissues at the back of the throat completely close off the airway for brief periods of time. The sleeper may gasp loudly as their brain becomes aware of the blockage, and then they resume breathing, and in many cases, snoring. People with severe blockages may experience xerostomia (dry mouth) due to mouth breathing. Those who live or sleep alone may not realize they have a problem.
3. There are many symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea.
The best answer for this question is D. Because this issue interferes with an individual’s ability to take in enough air and to get a sufficient period of uninterrupted, restorative (healing) sleep, the effects can include:
- Decreased athletic performance
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Impaired ability to focus on tasks
- Memory issues
- Mood swings
- Restless sleep
- Sweating excessively during sleep
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
4. OSA risk factors are widespread.
You’re doing well if you chose answer D again. According to the National Sleep Foundation, common risk factors include:
- Physical characteristics such as the size and positioning of the jaw, neck, tongue, tonsils, and other tissue near the back of the throat. These factors can directly affect the flow of air.
- Excess weight. Excess weight is a major cause of obstructive sleep apnea and may be a risk factor in over half of all cases. Obesity contributes to anatomical airway narrowing.
- Alcohol and sedative use. These substances can help relax tissue in the throat, which helps the airway to become obstructed.
- Family history. People with at least one close relative with OSA are more prone to develop the issue themselves.
- Smoking. People who smoke cigarettes, especially heavy smokers, have been found to develop OSA at higher rates than non-smokers.
- Sleeping on your back. When you sleep on your back, it’s easier for tissue around the airway to collapse and block airflow.
- Nasal congestion. If you have difficulty breathing through your nose due to congestion, you are more likely to experience OSA.
- Hormone abnormalities. The National Sleep Foundation’s website states, “Hormone conditions like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and acromegaly (excess growth hormone) may increase the risk of OSA by causing swelling of tissue near the airway and/or contributing to a person’s risk of obesity.
5. Major health issues linked to obstructive sleep apnea are also widespread.
The correct response to this question—unfortunately—is D, “all of the above.” Research shows a correlation between a number of serious health conditions and obstructive sleep apnea. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the list includes:
- Enlarged muscle tissue around the heart (cardiomyopathy)
- Heart attacks and heart failure
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
Furthermore, untreated OSA may also result in unsatisfactory job performance and work-related accidents, motor vehicle crashes, and diminished school performance in children and adolescents.
6. Snoring doesn’t always indicate OSA.
If you chose answer B, you’re correct. While snoring—especially loud snoring—is a common symptom of OSA, people who don’t have OSA sometimes snore for other reasons, such as aging, alcohol/sedative use, anatomy of the head and neck, back sleeping, excess weight, hypothyroidism, nasal congestion, or smoking.
Some people who snore have central sleep apnea, a different disorder that involves a disconnect between the brain and the respiratory muscles, and can occur even if there is no blockage of the airway. However, central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea.
7. OSA treatment may be simpler than you think.
Answer C is correct. If you’re experiencing sleep issues as described above (or believe that this might be the case), a first step is to schedule an airway evaluation. A trained, experienced dentist can provide this; it’s a safe, painless, and non-invasive way to determine next steps. If necessary, your dentist can then refer you to a specialist for further evaluation, and work collaboratively to design a treatment plan. A dental treatment approach could be as simple as fitting you for an oral appliance to gradually widen your dental arches and help expand your airway.
At Winchester Dental, we are pleased to offer both airway evaluation and oral appliance therapy for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. If you’re having trouble sleeping, take the first step to better sleep and better health—come see us!