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Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is a life-threatening condition that occurs when your breathing stops for more than 10 seconds at a time while sleeping. When breathing stops, your brain partially awakens to restore breathing. This may happen hundreds of times a night, although you may not be aware of it. In fact researchers estimate that up to 90% of sufferers are undiagnosed.
Symptoms and conditions associated with sleep apnea include:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Nighttime restlessness, frequent awakening
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Weight gain
- Personality disorders and changes
- Inability to concentrate
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Lack of motivation
Sleep is necessary for your physical and mental health. With sleep apnea, your body is deprived of oxygen for up to 20 seconds at a time, maybe 90 times an hour! When your brain senses the lack of oxygen, it awakens just enough to restore breathing, which means you may never reach the deeper levels of sleep necessary for true restful sleep. When your body senses the oxygen deprivation, your heart rate and blood pressure increase to try to restore oxygen. Hormonal responses also contribute to weight gain and diabetes.
Studies have shown that people with sleep apnea are up to five times more likely to die than people of the same age without sleep apnea. The cause is most often related to heart disease, but there are many potential causes. For example, people with sleep apnea have been shown to have a 300-500% increase in car accidents resulting in serious injuries.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
The recommended sleep apnea treatment for you depends on your diagnosis. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form and has many possible treatments. For very mild cases, you may get good results from behavior and lifestyle changes, such as trying a different sleep position and not drinking alcohol at night. Weight loss may help, but sleep apnea can make it hard to lose weight because it interferes with your body’s ability to burn fat.
What About CPAP?
Many doctors prescribe CPAP for every sleep apnea patient. Unfortunately, because people feel the CPAP mask it too uncomfortable, less than half of people prescribed the treatment actually use it enough to improve their sleep apnea.
For mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, a more comfortable alternative exists. Oral appliance therapy means you put in a device similar to a sports mouthguard before going to bed. It holds your jaw in the optimum position for keeping your airway open. Studies have proven its effectiveness and it is now covered by Medicare and many private insurance plans.
In some cases, surgery can be used to clear the airway, but in most cases it’s best to try oral appliance therapy first. Children with sleep apnea may benefit from tonsil and adenoid removal, however.
To learn whether we can help treat your obstructive sleep apnea, please contact for an appointment.