When a sleeper snores and then stops breathing because the tongue blocks the airway so the breathing cycle is impeded (ie. heavy snoring) or altogether stopped - that’s sleep apnea. It’s like being choked. . . gently, all night long, and that usually causes the sleeper to wake up frequently (often unaware they awoke), to wake up with a headache, a dry mouth, a sore throat, and feeling like they did BEFORE falling asleep the night before. Males with thick necks and heavy set individuals were the easiest to spot, but narrow faced individuals, especially females are fast becoming the new norm for sleep apnea. Read more to find out why.
Does My Mouth Really Have an Effect on Sleep Apnea?
The only muscle in the middle of your mouth is the tongue. For various reasons such as bottle feeding (with a soft nipple) and mushy baby foods the tongue is rendered weaker. A weak tongue makes it easier for the cheek and lip muscles to create a narrow face, and a narrow face squeezes the teeth and nasal space. The result? Noses that are easily congested, teeth that are crowded, a tongue that doesn’t know where to go, and . . . yep, sleep apnea. When the nose is congested, then the mouth is up to collect all the air.
When we sleep our body relaxes, and that’s true for our mouth, tongue, and throat. If we are already narrow then the tongue has few places to go but back to the throat, however, if our nasal passages are congested, then we are forced to breathe through the mouth. Heavy set individuals are have more “stuffing” around their neck and cheeks which contribute to this malady as well. Sadly, the mouth does little in the way of warming the air before it reaches the lungs. It’s also unable to humidify or filter the air as well as the nose. Additionally, the nose releases a chemical that stimulates better oxygen absorption and reduces bacteria and viruses. The mouth just isn’t ideal for breathing, and when the tongue is already crowded in the mouth it’s inevitable for it to fall to the back of the mouth and cause snoring and eventually sleep apnea.
Learn how your mouth plays a role in breathing and what your many options are at your next appointment!
What are the Symptoms?
What are the symptoms of poor breathing at night? How much time do you have? Everyone adapts differently, and has different challenges so the list of symptoms will look like a Medicine Ad on late night TV, but there are some hallmark symptoms:
- Already using a CPAP
- Heavy snoring
- Dark Circles under the eyes
- Hard time going to sleep and/or waking up
- Night Terrors
- Night Sweats
- Crowded teeth
- Enlarged tonsils
- Tongue feels like it’s too big
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Attack
- Losing weight is very difficult
What are your Options?
First off, be aware that kids are starting to show signs of sleep apnea as well, so we want to make sure that kids symptoms are being considered in this. Typically, a concerned parent notices certain symptoms but they aren’t happy with the “just medicate them” philosophy.
Then there’s the typical adult suffering from snoring and sleep apnea. Sometimes a loved one mentions they aren’t sleeping well either BECAUSE of all the snoring. Or you recognize some of the symptoms and decided to do something about it. AND, so begins the hunt for a solution and there are a LOT of solutions out there:
- Lose weight
- Eat less dairy
- Eat less. . . of everything
- Snore guards
- Nasal strips
- Elevating the head of the bed
- Sleeping in separate rooms
- Sleep appliances that move the jaw forward
- Sleep appliances that pull the tongue forward
- Appliances that develop the jaws
- Surgery of the nasal passages
- Surgery to remove tonsils
- Surgery to pull the jaw forward
- Nerve Stimulators
So, what have you tried? What works for one may not for others. So many feel they only have one choice or don’t know they have ANY choice. We want to help. If you or someone you love is suffering and struggling for another option call us for a consultation at 801-782-9269.
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