Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a life-threatening disorder that is linked to certain life choices and habits, including smoking. Sleep apnea can be life threatening, and anyone experiencing sleep apnea should visit an experienced board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon who diagnoses and treats sleep apnea.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes disrupted sleep and dangerously low oxygen levels. The sleeper’s tongue is sucked towards the back of the throat causing an obstruction that forcefully blocks the upper airway passage. This obstruction stops the flow of air for seconds or minutes. The lack of air instigates a dramatic decrease in the sleeper’s oxygen. When the oxygen level drops low enough, the brain triggers the sleeper to partially awaken and to clear the obstruction. A loud gasp is commonly heard with the sudden intact of air.
The soft palate, tonsils, uvula or the tongue may collapse inward and block the airway repeatedly throughout the night. Individuals with OSA are experiencing a repetitive decrease in oxygenation levels on a regular basis. This can create potentially serious cardiovascular problems.
The Connection Between Smoking and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
If you are a smoker, there is a good chance that you are also experiencing sleep apnea episodes. Smoking can increase the risk for obstructive sleep apnea, because nicotine works to relax the airway muscles. Smokers are up to three times more likely to experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) than individuals who have never smoked.
Smoking and Apnea is a Dangerous Combination
Smoking works to irritate the tissues that line the nose and throat. It also causes inflammation and fluid retention within the airway. This swelling creates a blockage that restricts the flow of air. Smoking and sleep apnea are each associated with life-threatening symptoms.
Smoking can instigate or activate obstructive sleep disorder, and this is an especially dangerous combination that can significantly reduce the smoker’s quality of life. Smoking is a habit that can severely shorten an individual’s lifespan when it activates obstructive sleep disorder. Both sleep apnea and smoking instigate cardiovascular and respiratory health complications. Combining smoking and OSA increases the risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as mouth, throat and lung cancer. Persons with sleep apnea who smoke typically have heightened triglyceride levels and decreased HDL levels.
Sleep Studies Pertaining to Smokers
2013 University of Florida study reports that the average smoker loses 1.2 minutes of sleep for each cigarette that they smoke. Nicotine provides a wave of stimulation that is followed by withdrawal, and this affects the smoker’s ability to fall asleep and completely rest.
Men’s Health reports that smokers experience sleep issues. This sleep pattern may be further complicated with the start of obstructive sleep apnea. “People who smoke within two hours of bedtime struggle to fall asleep because the nicotine disrupts their natural sleep-wake cycle, and withdrawal symptoms set in before the morning alarm goes off, often leaving smokers feeling even more restless and agitated.” – Men’s Health
Nicotine can aggravate the obstructive sleep disorder by further relaxing the muscles in the throat, the smoking sleeper with OSA struggles to achieve true rest while sleeping. Individuals who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea rarely reach the level of deep sleep where complete rest and dreaming occurs. With proper obstructive sleep apnea treatment, sleepers will begin to reach a deep level of sleep and begin to dream again. In fact, vivid dreaming is commonly experienced by those who are in the process of quitting smoking and are implementing sleep apnea treatment.
Chin Med 2012 reports, “Smoking may act as a risk factor for OSA and join with OSA in a common pathway to increase the risk of systematic injury. OSA, in turn, may be a predisposing factor for smoking. Thus, smoking cessation is recommended when considering treatment for OSA, and treating OSA may be a necessary precondition for successful smoking cessation.”
Symptoms of OSA are experienced by smokers and non-smokers, but they may be further aggravated and complicated with the use of nicotine. Complications or symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea may include:
- Daytime drowsiness or fatigue
- Concentration difficulties
- Falling asleep during activities, including work, TV and driving
- Cardiovascular stress due to high blood pressure and sudden drops in blood oxygen levels
- Heart attack or stroke
- Breathing issues
- Chronic eye conditions
- Memory issues and forgetfulness
- Moodiness or depression
- Morning headaches
- Frequent need to urinate at night (nocturia)
OSA causes the heart to pump faster and harder due to reduced oxygen in the blood. Sleep apnea patients may stop breathing numerous times each night. Studies indicate that only 10 percent of individuals experiencing sleep apnea symptoms visit a doctor for an evaluation. This is unfortunate and disturbing because seeing a doctor will provide the OSA victim with potentially life-saving treatment. Sleep apnea is a significant health concern that should be overseen by an experienced oral surgeon.
Oral surgeon, Dr. Jamali in New York, NY, treats patients who are suffering from sleep apnea. At a consultation in his New York City office, Dr. Jamali will exam you, review your history and evaluate your symptoms and concerns. Tests may be ordered that will determine any cardiovascular compromise due to decreased oxygenation levels. A sleep study is often recommended to monitor your overnight sleep patterns.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatments
If you are experiencing sleep apnea, you can benefit from the cessation of unhealthy habits, including alcohol consumption, smoking and the use of over the counter and prescription sleep medications. Smoking and some medications can complicate the symptoms experienced with OSA. Options are available in addition to the uncomfortable use of a sleep mask. Dental devices may be a more comfortable option recommended by Dr. Jamali. Surgical options have an impressive success rate.
- Uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP) treats the back of the throat and soft palate. (Light sedation in office treatment)
- Uvulo-palato-plasty (LAUPP) is a laser assisted procedure that treats the back of the throat and soft palate. (Light sedation in office treatment)
- Radio-frequency probe tightens the soft palate. (Light sedation in office treatment)
- Orthognathic surgery repositions the upper and lower jaw bones to enlarge the airway. (General anesthesia in the hospital) This is a solution that leads to the outstanding results and restores the obstructive sleep apnea patient with deep, restorative sleep.
Request a sleep apnea consultation and learn more about your viable treatment options. Call Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of New York at 212-480-2777 to schedule an appointment with Oral Surgeon Majid Jamali, DMD, in New York, NY.