A recent study by researchers at the UCLA School of Nursing found that women are more prone to the effects of sleep apnea and specifically, that women with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher degree of brain damage than men. There has been many studies done on sleep apnea and its effects on health but they typically focus on men. These researchers knew that sleep apnea affects women differently than men so they focused on comparing the sexes and determining the extent of the differences they experience. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted repeatedly during sleep. Each time oxygen levels in the blood drop, resulting in damage to cells in the body. If not addressed, it can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression and other serious health conditions.
The study found that women were affected by parts of the brain known as the cingulum bundle and the anterior cingulate cortex, the frontal cortex areas that are involved in things like mood regulation and decision making. Women with sleep apnea showed higher levels of anxiety and depression issues.
Surprisingly, it’s your dentist that may be able to detect symptoms of sleep apnea even before your regular family doctor. First of all, your dentist typically sees you more often and after a candid talk, can detect sleep apnea by hearing about any problems like lethargy, morning headaches, or dry mouth. If your dentist suspects you might be suffering from sleep apnea, he will refer you to a sleep clinic for a proper diagnosis.
Dentists, like Dr. Dan Matthews, have training for sleep apnea treatment using behavioral modification and dental appliances, but a confirmed diagnosis by a sleep medicine specialist is needed before a treatment can be administered. Behavioral changes can be things such as quitting smoking, changing your sleeping position or losing weight, but your dentist can also help with oral appliance therapy. The appliance is typically as easy to use as most retainers and resembles an athletic mouth guard. The device repositions the jaw and tongue to improve airflow.
If you are suffering from sleep apnea or are exhibiting symptoms, talk to your dentist as soon as possible. They can help you get proper treatment and help make your nights more restful.