Sleep apnea is the second most common sleep disorder in the United States (just behind insomnia), affecting about 20 million people each and every night. When a person suffers from sleep apnea, they periodically stop breathing while they are asleep, and this forces the body to panic and wake up in order to prevent them from suffocating. This can happen dozens of times each hour, ruining a person’s sleep and putting their body through tremendous stress.
With obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), this cessation in breathing occurs because the soft tissues in the mouth and throat relax and collapse into the airway. This is by far the most common form of the disorder.
The other type occurs when a person’s brain simply stops sending the body the signal to breathe, and this is called central sleep apnea (CSA). In rare instances, a person can also have a combination of the two.
Sleep apnea can be tough to diagnose on your own simply because you can’t actually watch yourself sleep. Most of the time, it’s a bed partner that first notices that something is wrong.
These are just some of the short term effects of sleep apnea, but the condition can also lead to potentially serious health issues. Whenever the body is forced to wake itself up in order to restore normal breathing, a person’s blood pressure skyrockets. Unfortunately, it typically doesn’t come back down for many hours, and this heightened blood pressure can actually remain during a person’s waking hours as well. In the medical field, high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it is one of the biggest risk factors in heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.
Plus, for anyone who drives a car on a regular basis, being sleep deprived makes you much more likely to be in an accident. This, in addition to mood swings and depression, is how sleep apnea can end up having a very big impact on your quality of life.
If you believe that you are suffering from sleep apnea, don’t worry, there are very effective treatment options you can get today.
The first thing you need to do is get a proper diagnosis, as 80% of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years. You can visit your primary care physician and describe your symptoms, and they may ask you to have a sleep study performed. You can have it performed in a lab, or you can contact us, and we can provide you with an easy-to-use take home sleep test. Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can then seek out the proper treatment.
Currently, the most commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. For this treatment, a patient wears a facial mask that is connected to an air pump which forces oxygen into their throat in order to keep the airway unobstructed. As you can imagine, many patients find this extremely uncomfortable. For them, we can offer an alternative called oral appliance therapy.
Rather than relying on a bulky and noisy machine, it only uses a small, custom-made mouthguard. It has been shown to improve the sleep quality of 91% of the people who use it regularly, and you can learn more about it right here.
If you think sleep apnea is robbing you of restful nights and making your life harder during the day, don’t wait, try to seek out treatment as soon as you can. It will be one of the best things you ever do for your health. If you have any questions about the condition or would like help getting a diagnosis, simply contact our office today.