It’s estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of cases being undiagnosed. While there are plenty of options available for sleep apnea treatment in Atlanta, is there a way to avoid developing a sleep disorder in the first place? In today’s blog, we touch on some of the underlying causes of the condition and discuss a few ways to possibly prevent the disorder from developing.
Your Anatomy & Sleep Apnea
A person’s anatomy is one of the biggest factors that can lead someone to develop sleep apnea. Everyone’s bodies are different, and the composition of an individual’s airway can increase the likelihood of an obstruction that will inhibit breathing throughout the night. Some anatomy issues that can cause obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Nasal obstructions due to allergies or a deviated septum
- Narrow airways as a result of genetics (not due to weight– more on this below)
- Large tongue, tonsils, and/or adenoids blocking the airway
- Airways that are crowded by oversized organs
Depending on the severity of the case, anatomy issues that cause obstructive sleep apnea can be addressed using CPAP therapy, oral appliance therapy, or corrective surgery.
Lifestyle Factors That Can Lead to Sleep Apnea
Unfortunately, you have very little control over the anatomy of your airway, but you do have control over various lifestyle factors that can contribute to the disorder.
By far, the most common preventable factor that can lead to sleep apnea is obesity. People who are overweight have excess tissue in the back of their throat, which can fall down over the airways and block proper breathing during sleep. It’s recognized that losing weight is one of the best ways to help prevent obstructive sleep apnea.
Maintaining a healthy weight and staying in shape can also reduce already present sleep apnea symptoms, and in some cases, even cure the disorder by removing excess tissue in the throat and/or shrinking neck circumference (people with thicker necks may also have narrower airways, making breathing at night more difficult).
There is no guarantee that weight loss in and of itself will cure sleep apnea, but it can certainly make symptoms much better and is beneficial in many ways for overall health as well.
Two other lifestyle factors that can be controlled are alcohol consumption and smoking. Alcohol acts as a sedative, so while it can help a person fall asleep faster, it also makes it easier for the muscles in the mouth and throat to over-relax and block the airway, increasing both snoring and apnea symptoms. Reducing alcohol intake has been scientifically proven to have potential preventative value in the condition. Additionally, observational studies have found a strong association between smoking and obstructive sleep apnea.
Help Yourself Sleep Better
While you may not have a lot of control over the anatomy of your airway, things like your weight, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits are all firmly within your grasp. Watching your weight and keeping alcohol and smoking to a minimum can reduce your chances of developing sleep apnea.
However, if you believe that you or a loved one already have obstructive sleep apnea, it’s absolutely necessary to seek treatment. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that affects your energy and quality of life, and adherence to treatment is necessary for helping you breathe at night and ease negative symptoms. Dr. Jeff Rodgers is a sleep apnea dentist in Atlanta who has helped thousands of patients overcome sleep apnea and snoring using custom-made oral appliances. If you’re tired of feeling tired, we invite you to schedule a FREE consultation with Sleep Better Georgia. Dr. Rodgers will help you get to the root of your sleep problems, provide tips you can use at home, and, if needed, supply you with your own sleep appliance that will help you start getting better rest the very first night.