Do you wake up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep? If so, you are not alone. Approximately 12 to 20 million Americans suffer from some degree of sleep apnea, a serious health condition that impacts your overall well being. Snoring is often a symptom of this problem, but many people don’t take that sign seriously enough.
What is sleep apnea?
Characterized by frequent lapses in breathing throughout the night that last for 10-20 seconds each time, sleep apnea occurs in two forms, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by airway blockage. With OSA, the soft tissues in your throat relax too much and collapse, which cuts off your air supply. Central sleep apnea happens when the brain forgets to send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Signs of OSA may include loud snoring, headaches, confusion, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and decreased energy.
Can sleep apnea impact my daily life?
Not only will you feel exhausted, but sleep apnea can affect your ability to function. Often, people with sleep apnea experience daytime grogginess, irritability, and memory issues. As well, sleep apnea can increase your risk for certain medical conditions such as weight gain, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and heart-related problems like hypertension.
What treatment is available?
After you undergo a thorough evaluation to confirm sleep apnea, your doctor can recommend therapy to address the problem. The most common treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which regulates breathing while you sleep. Many individuals don’t respond well to CPAP machines, finding them bulky or uncomfortable. As an alternative, your orthodontist can fit you for a night guard, an oral appliance that keeps your airways open during sleep.