Sleep apnea is a condition about which we hear more and more details. This exaggerated snoring condition is nothing new, but it has taken some time to uncover the real risks that are involved in letting this sleep disorder go untreated. It has also taken some time for scientists to develop successful treatment options. Moreover, the real worry about sleep apnea seems to continually miss those for whom it matters the most: those who have it.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by loud snoring and momentary silence. “Apnea,” in Greek, literally translates to “without breath.” This fact alone is an indication of the serious nature of the condition. What many people see, or hear, though, is the snoring (more than the lack thereof), and this means a potentially grave misunderstanding. Apnea interrupts air flow to the brain and other organs. The pause in respiration sets in motion a biological, chemical reaction in which adrenaline is released by the brain to jolt the body into a more alert state. The affected individual may not wake but will be roused into breathing, at least until the next apnea episode, which could be only minutes later.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Fortunately, there are ways to differentiate between snoring and sleep apnea. Signs may include:
- General insomnia and restlessness
- Disproportionate fatigue during waking hours
- Difficulty concentrating
- Morning headaches or a sore throat
Recognizing the Need for Treatment
Knowing that you or a loved one is affected by sleep apnea is one thing. Doing something about it is something else, and it is the doing that can save a life. Yes, save a life. It is estimated that 450,000 deaths each year are attributed to sleep apnea, as well as serious health conditions such as stroke risk, high blood pressure, and hypertension.
Choosing the Right Sleep Apnea Treatment
There are several ways to mitigate the risks of sleep apnea. When the issue is airway obstruction, improvement may be obtained by losing weight, which limits pressure on the throat when muscles are fully lax. Limiting alcohol may also decrease the laxity of resting muscles during sleep. Lifestyle modifications are beneficial, but may not fully resolve obstructive sleep apnea. To achieve the best results, it is advantageous to obtain a professional assessment for sleep apnea and to explore treatment options such as CPAP or oral appliance therapy.
Schedule a Consultation
The dentists in our McLean office have training in oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. We are happy to discuss this protocol with you and help you get back to a good night’s sleep. If you would like to know more, call us today at 703.448.1020 for an appointment.