Sleep Apnea 101

sitting-on-floorDo you wake up in the morning with a headache or find yourself feeling exhausted throughout the day? You may have sleep apnea. Here’s what you should know:

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when your airway temporarily closes while you are sleeping. Patients with sleep apnea stop breathing for very short periods of time multiple times each night. When this happens, your body partially wakes up so that you can resume breathing. This can happen hundreds of times a night without the patient realizing what is happening.

Why is sleep apnea dangerous?

Sleep apnea can cause daily problems that result from exhaustion, but it can also cause serious long-term health problems. Sleep apnea has been connected to weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression. It can contribute to diabetes, cardiovascular problems, heart attacks, strokes, and more.

What are the signs of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious problem—if you notice any of the following signs, contact your doctor or dentist. Some common signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Headaches in the morning
  • Exhaustion throughout the day
  • Forgetfulness and irritability
  • Getting sleepy while driving
  • Snoring very loudly
  • Difficulty concentrating at work
  • Having a sore throat in the morning
  • Waking up in the middle of the night to a gasping or choking sensation

How is sleep apnea treated?

Sleep apnea can seriously damage your health, but fortunately there are treatments available that can help you get the uninterrupted sleep your body needs. Because sleep apnea is usually the result of an obstructed airway, removing the obstruction can solve many problems. Sometimes losing weight, having your tonsils removed, or changing your sleeping position can eliminate the obstruction in your airway. In more serious cases, patients may need to use a CPAP machine that keeps air flowing into their nostrils.

One of the simplest solutions is actually offered by your dentist. If you have mild or moderate sleep apnea, you may benefit from an adjustable oral appliance that can be created by your dentist. You keep it in your mouth while you’re sleeping and it helps your airway stay open. If you think you may have sleep apnea, contact Dr. O’Brien to learn more.

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