Do you often feel drowsy during the day? Do you snore or wake up short of breath in the middle of the night?
If so, you may be one of the millions of Americans suffering from sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops periodically during sleep. If you suffer from sleep apnea, each time your breathing stops, your brain isn’t getting the oxygen it needs. It will alert your body to wake up briefly, at which point you fall back to sleep. This cycle can occur numerous times throughout the night, keeping your body from getting the deep sleep it needs to feel refreshed. Most people that suffer from sleep apnea aren’t aware that this is occurring, but may just feel tired during the day.
What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?
The following symptoms can indicate the presence of sleep apnea. If you notice one or more of these, give us a call, and we can refer you to a sleep apnea specialist.
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Drowsiness during the day
What are risk factors?
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in males than females, and more common in older adults (40 and up) than younger adults and children. However, anyone – regardless of gender or age – can suffer from this.
Other risk factors include:
- Use of sedatives
- High blood pressure
- Family history
Try this short screening test to see if you may have sleep apnea
Is sleep apnea dangerous?
Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition and if left untreated can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart failure and stroke, high cholesterol, weight gain and several other medical conditions. The ongoing state of fatigue caused by this can lead to problems at work or school, as well as danger when operating cars or other heavy machinery. Sleep apnea can also cause complications with medication or surgery: sedation by anesthesia can be risky, as can lying flat in bed after an operation. If you know or suspect you suffer from sleep apnea, alert any doctors who prescribe medication or advise surgery.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Treatments range widely and depend on the severity of the problem and the type of apnea. Basic treatment can be behavioral – for instance, patients are instructed to lose weight, stop smoking, or sleep on their sides instead of on their backs. Beyond that, oral devices can be used to position the mouth in such a way that prevents throat blockage. In more severe cases, a CPAP machine may be the best option.
What should I do if I suspect that someone in my family suffers from sleep apnea?
Give us a call, and we can provide a free screening for you. If you test positive with the screening device we will refer you to a sleep apnea specialist. The specialist may recommend a “sleep study” to diagnose the precise extent of the problem, and can prescribe appropriate treatment. Depending on your situation, treatment may involve an oral device that we can custom-create for you. We will also monitor the effectiveness of the appliance with a home sleep-screening device.