March 19, 2021
There are already plenty of reasons to call a sleep dentist if you think you have sleep apnea – chronic exhaustion, loud snoring that’s disturbing your partner, increased risk of a heart attack, and so on. But according to recent studies, there may be another reason that you haven’t thought of: sleep-disordered breathing can speed up the body’s aging process, leading to all sorts of long-term problems. Understanding the link between sleep apnea and aging will make it very clear why getting treatment for a sleep disorder right away is so important.
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Aging
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine conducted a study examining the impact that sleep apnea has on biological aging. Biological age is different from calendar age; it’s based on the state of your body rather than how many years you’ve been alive. The study showed that each deviation increase in the apnea-hypopnea index – which is basically a measurement of how severe sleep apnea is – was linked to roughly 215 days of biological age acceleration. In other words, the worse sleep apnea was, the older the body seemed. The association was particularly strong in women, which is notable because women are generally at less risk for sleep apnea than men. It’s important to note that the study participants were all older and may have had sleep-disordered breathing for years.
Can Treatment Reduce Age Acceleration?
The aging effects of sleep apnea are epigenetic, meaning they are linked to the genes themselves. Epigenetic aging can be reversed, and while it has yet to be shown that sleep apnea treatment directly reduces age acceleration, it’s a fact that such intervention can reduce your risk of sleep apnea complications in general. Therefore, you should make an appointment with a sleep expert as soon as possible.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
If you are found to have sleep apnea after a sleep study, there are a variety of treatment options you might consider:
- CPAP therapy keeps the airways open by forcing air into your throat throughout the night. Unfortunately, many patients find this treatment too noisy and uncomfortable.
- Oral appliance therapy uses a specially made mouthpiece to gently shift the jaw forward in order to make sure the airway stays clear. It’s an excellent solution for patients who found themselves unable to comply with CPAP.
- Combined therapy makes use of both CPAP and oral appliances. Because the airway is partially opened by the appliance, the CPAP machine can be placed on a lower setting that’s much easier to tolerate.
Sleep apnea can certainly take its toll on your body in various ways, but if you stay alert for possible warning signs of the disorder and seek treatment as soon as you have reason to think something is wrong, you can protect yourself from the worst consequences of sleep-disordered breathing and accelerated aging.
About the Author
Dr. Robert Dernick opened his first practice in The Woodlands in 1980. After several years of practicing general and cosmetic dentistry, he took up studying sleep dentistry to help patients who suffer from snoring and sleep apnea. He enjoys how his chosen profession lets him help people enjoy healthier, happier lives. If you think sleep apnea is having an effect on your body, visit our website or call (281) 783-3419.
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