Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects up to 18 million Americans. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. The most common type of this condition is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much, causing the airway to get blocked.
Sleep apnea can negatively impact your oral and overall health. In addition to causing poor sleep quality, sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk for stroke, heart attack, diabetes, depression, and driving accidents.
What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is often difficult to tell apart from a normal sleep pattern. The most common symptom is loud and disruptive snoring. However, snoring isn’t a direct symptom of sleep apnea. Instead, snoring is something that occurs as a result of sleep apnea. People who are experiencing sleep apnea are often unable to breathe normally throughout the night. This can result in loud snoring, choking, or gasping for air.
In addition to snoring, people who suffer from sleep apnea often experience daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and headaches.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, visit a sleep specialist for an evaluation. They will ask you about your medical history and perform a physical examination. They may order additional tests to diagnose sleep apnea, including:
Polysomnography (PSG): This diagnostic tool records your sleep as you sleep. It monitors your brain and body functions during sleep, including your heart rate and blood pressure. It also records your breathing patterns.
Multiple sleep latency tests: This test measures how quickly you fall asleep after going to bed.
Diagnostic imaging: Your doctor may recommend a sleep study to rule out other sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy. These studies monitor your brain and body functions while you sleep. Your doctor may also recommend a sleep study if your partner notices signs of sleep apnea, such as loud snoring, choking, or gasping noises.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Oral appliances are a common treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea. These dental devices are worn at night and prevent the tongue from relaxing, which can prevent apnea from occurring.
Patients can also use a CPAP machine, which is a machine that forces air into your airway to maintain an open airway throughout the night.
How Can I Prevent Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect anyone, but it’s more common in men. Sleep apnea can also be caused by injuries or conditions that affect the jaw or throat. Lifestyle choices, such as a poorly fitted oral appliance, can also increase your risk.
Cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol, and using sedatives can promote sleep apnea. These habits should be avoided. You should also avoid sleeping on your back. Sleep apnea can often be prevented or reduced with an oral appliance.
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