Sleep apnea is a real problem for an estimated 22 million Americans. This condition can shorten your life, and it has been connected with an increased risk of depression, diabetes, heart disease, and even fatal car crashes.
And yet, most people with this condition do not know that they have it, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
People with this condition snore frequently and loudly, which means they may be keeping their loved ones from getting quality sleep, too.
At Atlanta West Dentistry in Marietta, we want you and your family to sleep better. You may have been suffering with this condition for years without knowing it. This year, resolve to sleep better, and you just might improve your life.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder. People with this disorder have difficulty breathing while they are asleep. (Apnea is a Greek word that means “without breath.”)
The most recognizable signs of sleep apnea are frequent moments when you stop breathing in your sleep and your persistent, loud snoring. Snoring is your body’s way of waking you up long enough to keep you breathing.
Everyone snores sometimes, but people with sleep apnea seem to snore constantly.
Because people with sleep apnea wake up briefly at multiple times throughout the night, they rarely get into the deeper stages of sleep.
As a result, people with sleep apnea often feel sleep deprived. They may wake up feeling tired, and they may become sleepy during the day. When this happens at work, it may be a little embarrassing. If it happens when you are driving, however, it can be fatal for you or someone else.
If your sleep apnea remains untreated, you have a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
There are three major types of sleep apnea. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea.
People with this condition have a blockage in their airways when they sleep. Often this is because the muscles in their throats relax, which causes their airways to close. (This is what prompts your body to snore, which opens your airway temporarily.)
The second type is central sleep apnea. People with this type of sleep apnea have trouble breathing because their brains do not send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing when they are asleep.
The final type is mixed sleep apnea. As the name suggests, people with this condition have a combination of the two other types of sleep apnea.
Treating obstructive sleep apnea
The standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. This machine blows air into your throat to keep your airway open while you sleep.
This is a highly effective treatment if you can tolerate wearing the mask. Unfortunately, many people with sleep apnea find their masks uncomfortable, or they refuse the use their machine. When that happens, they are not doing anything to treat their condition.
Fortunately for people with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, dentists may be able to help you breathe easier. At Atlanta West Dentistry, we can make one of these mouthpiece, which is similar to an athletic mouthguard that you wear overnight.
Mouthguards for sleep apnea change the position of your jaw. This helps keep your airway open so you (and your partner) can sleep easier and more deeply.
When you sleep well, you wake up feeling refreshed, you are less likely to nod off during the day, and you have more energy to do the things you need to do.
Signs of sleep apnea
You already know that loud, constant snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. Here are some other symptoms that are common among people with this condition:
– Frequent daytime sleepiness
– Waking up often during the night and feeling out of breath
– Waking up with dry mouth
– Morning headaches
If you find that you have more than one of these symptoms, you should call us or contact your doctor about undergoing a sleep study.
While sleep apnea can happen to anyone, men are at a higher risk than women. It’s also worth noting that African-American and Hispanic men are at a higher risk than other groups.
Get a sleep test, then get help
If you are worried that you or someone you love may have sleep apnea, now is the time to find out. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can start your treatment.
You can sleep better, and we can help.