Sleep Apnea Basics

Sleeping WomanWhat is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects millions of Americans. People with sleep apnea experience interruptions in breathing while they are sleeping. Some people can temporarily stop breathing hundreds of times a night.

Most cases of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea, where something blocks the airway while a person is sleeping. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • Having small airways in the mouth, nose, or throat
  • Having an enlarged uvula
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Consuming too much alcohol
  • Having a soft palate

Sleep apnea is more common in men, but women also suffer from sleep apnea. The risk of developing sleep apnea increases as people age.

Why is sleep apnea dangerous?

Sleep apnea can leave you exhausted and unfocused, which makes it difficult to safely perform daily tasks like driving and cooking. It also has more serious consequences. Sleep apnea is hard on your cardiovascular system and has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems. It has also been linked to diabetes and increased vulnerability to illnesses.

What are the signs of sleep apnea?

Some people may have sleep apnea without even realizing it. Signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Waking up to a choking or gasping sensation
  • Loud snoring
  • Extreme exhaustion and side effects of extreme exhaustion such as mood swings, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and being easily annoyed or frustrated.
  • Chronic headaches, especially in the mornings.
  • Waking up with a very dry mouth or sore throat
  • Sleepiness while driving
  • Restless sleep

If you are experiencing any of the above problems, you should schedule an appointment to see your doctor.

What treatments are available?

While it may help to see your doctor, your dentist can also help diagnose and treat sleep apnea. The treatment used to combat sleep apnea will depend on the cause of the problem and the patient’s health. In some cases lifestyle changes, such as sleeping on the side can solve the problem. Other patients may benefit from having their tonsils removed.

One simple solution is to use a customized dental device to keep the airway open while you sleep. If you are suffering from sleep apnea, don’t wait to seek treatment; schedule a consultation at Galleria Dental Aesthetics to learn about your treatment options.

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