About 28 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, according to The New York Times, a disorder in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops while sleeping—up to dozens of times per hour. That makes it impossible to ever really get a good night’s sleep. Here’s what else you need to know about the snooze-stopping condition:
Sleep apnea comes in multiple forms. By far the most common is obstructive sleep apnea, in which your airway becomes blocked because of relaxing throat muscles. Central sleep apnea involves your brain not sending the right signals to your breathing muscles, and only accounts for a small percentage of sleep apnea cases. A person can also have a combination of the two.
Sleep apnea is way more than just annoying snoring. Although snoring is often the most telltale symptom of sleep apnea, it’s far from the only consequence—high blood pressure and heart problems, daytime fatigue that can lead to drowsiness while driving, morning headaches, mood swings, memory problems and liver issues are all potential complications.
Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Thanks to the snoring and pauses in breathing while asleep, a bed partner is often the first person to notice signs that you might have a sleep condition. It can’t be detected by a blood test and is tough for doctors to assess just by seeing you during a routine visit. In fact, many people with the disorder think they’re getting plenty of rest and can’t figure out why they have excessive daytime drowsiness.
Sleep apnea can happen to anyone. While there are factors that increase your risk for sleep apnea—including being overweight, being male, being 60 or older, smoking and a family history of the disorder, among others—it can happen to anyone.
Sleep apnea can be managed by a dentist. One of the treatments available for sleep apnea is oral appliance therapy, which is a custom-fit device that you wear in your mouth while sleeping to keep your airway open. Many find this a good alternative to CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a mask-like machine that you wear while you sleep.
In our practice, we work with your doctor to solve your sleep apnea problem. Says Dr. Stern: “Sleep apnea is a very serious problem that often goes undetected. Since many people see their dentist more often than they see their physician, we are in a unique position to carefully and inexpensively screen for this problem. Our training enables us to provide a proven, effective alternative to C-PAP, which is often not tolerated. When an oral appliance is a person’s best option, we coordinate our care with sleep physicians to get optimal results.”
Think sleep apnea might be an issue for you?
Take the Epworth Sleep Score Test (don’t let the word test scare you—it’s just a few easy-to-answer questions) and then call 732.483.8030 to find out how we can help you.