Mouth Breathing and Sleep Apnea

Also known as obstructive sleep apnea, this condition occurs when breathing repeatedly stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep. This causes a decreased flow of oxygen to the blood and can cause people to awaken during sleep throughout the night.

There are a variety of causes for sleep apnea. The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is obesity, as it affects the soft tissue in the mouth and throat. The throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed when we sleep, and excessive soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked.

There are other causes of obstructive sleep apnea, many of them hereditary. Anatomical features such as a narrow throat, thick neck and a round head can contribute as well. Other contributing factors include hypothyroidism, allergies and a deviated septum that causes congestion in the upper airways. Other factors also include smoking, excessive alcohol use and the use of other sedatives.

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can cause serious health issues including cardiovascular disease and even premature death. If you have any warning signs such as loud snoring and repeatedly waking up at night, you should talk to your doctor.

Effective Treatment Options

The American College of Physicians emphasizes that it really comes down to lifestyle modifications, especially weight loss, when you are looking to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Researchers spend considerable time looking at various sleep apnea treatment options and determined that current therapies are effective options that work.

Losing weight is the biggest positive change you can make in treating obstructive sleep apnea, according the experts from the ACP. They state that, “losing just 10% of body weight can have a big effect on sleep apnea symptoms. In some cases, losing a significant amount of weight can even cure the condition.”

Because weight loss is difficult and doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, many people use a CPAP machine which fits over the nose and mouth and blows air into the airways to keep them open at night when you sleep.

The ACP recommends the only sure remedy to sleep apnea is losing weight or surgery to remove the excess tissue from the palate or throat. Of course, you need to make sure you have been properly diagnosed with sleep apnea and really explore your options with a qualified medical professional.

Mouth Breathing Issues

Sleep experts have discovered that a substantial portion of people become mouth breathers due to the development of sleep apnea. People who suffer from severe sleep apnea become mouth breathers to accommodate for the lack of oxygen. Others have developed the habit of mouth breathing due to nasal congestion caused by allergies or other nasal problems.

Because of the prevalence of mouth breathers, many sleep experts will begin all their patients on CPAP therapy with a full-face mask. Once patients have retrained themselves to sleep with their mouths closed, they might decide to exchange the full-face mask for a more traditional nasal mask or nasal pillow mask with a chin strap.

Full-face masks can be challenging just due to their size and users also run a higher risk of developing a leak in the mask. Experts advise users to perform their final adjustment to the mask while lying in bed in their normal sleeping position to help reduce the risk of a mask leak. Full-face mask users should place the mask on their face with the straps loose, turn on the machine and then lay down with their head on the pillow as they would normally sleep. Then, tighten the straps just enough to get a good seal on the mask. But don’t tighten the straps too tight or you run the risk of causing pressure point soreness or even cuts to the bridge of your nose. Patients should never experience any pain when using a CPAP mask. If you have sore spots or pain, then your mask might be the wrong size. There are dozens of different masks to choose from so make sure you work with your medical professional to choose the mask that fits your face best.

Sleep Apnea Specialist in New York

If you find yourself waking up frequently in the night and struggling with daytime sleepiness, you might suffer from a more serious sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. If you think you might have a more serious sleep issue, contact the top sleep apnea specialist in New York, Sleep MD NYC for a consultation. Don’t let poor sleep habits or a more serious health issue keep you from getting the rest you need.

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