What is Sleep Apnea? | Questions and Answers

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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night while you’re sleeping. People who leave their sleep apnea untreated can stop breathing hundreds of times during a single evening. This prevents your brain and body from getting the oxygen they need to function properly. If you think you might have it, you’re certainly not alone. The condition is relatively common; there are over 200,000 cases per year in the U.S.

The condition can be lifelong if left untreated. This can cause a multitude of health concerns and increase your risk of depression, headaches, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and even heart attack. It might also be responsible for poor performance in daily activities at work and school, such as underachievement, and can significantly increase your odds of getting into accidents while at work or while driving.

There are three different kinds of sleep apnea. The first, obstructive sleep apnea, is the most common form. It occurs when your throat muscles relax. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles controlling your breathing. Complex sleep apnea, or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when you have a combination of the obstructive and central types.

What are the Most Common Symptoms?

  • Loud snoring
  • Moments where you stop breathing during sleep (witnessed by another person)
  • Sudden awakenings in the middle of the night with shortness of breath
  • Gasping for air or choking that wakes you from sleep
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or a sore throat
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Trouble staying asleep at night
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Problems focusing
  • Irritability

Who is at Risk?

Anyone can be at risk for sleep apnea. Common factors include being older than 40, overweight, or being male. People with a large neck diameter, large tonsils, or large tongue are also at risk, as well as those who have a family history of the condition. Tell your doctor if you have gastroesophageal reflux, GERD or a nasal obstruction caused by a deviated septum, allergies, or any other sinus problems.

Is Sleep Apnea Treatable?

Definitely! While it is a chronic condition that can require long-term management, there are lots of solutions to keep you well-rested and lively throughout your day. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery, and breathing devices can help treat the condition successfully.

Where Do I Get Diagnosed and Treated?

Are any of these symptoms keeping you up at night? Give our dental office a call today. We’ll help you identify what the problem might be and find a sleep apnea solution that fits your lifestyle.


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