Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes breathing to stop multiple times during sleep. This can occur hundreds of times during a single night. Most of these interruptions are very brief, and many people who have sleep apnea don’t realize it until it’s diagnosed by a doctor or until their partner complains about their snoring or or gasping during sleep.
Apnea doesn’t always cause snoring, and not all snoring is a sign of apnea. For many patients, the only sign they have apnea is a feeling of daytime drowsiness that occurs as a result of the continual interruptions in their sleep.
There are two types of apnea:
Some people have a combination of both types of sleep apnea. OSA is more common among men and among older people. Obesity, a family history of OSA, smoking, and alcohol use also increase the risk of developing the condition.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include:
Sleep apnea has been linked with very serious medical problems, including heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. People who sleep poorly are also more likely to have diabetes and be obese. Plus, the excessive drowsiness associated with sleep apnea can increase the risk of accidents at work, home, or while driving.
Dentists can help many patients treat their apnea and reduce or eliminate their symptoms with the use of special mouth guards worn during sleep.
The mouth guards gently shift the position of the bottom jaw, helping to keep the airway open during sleep. Mouth guards are custom made of special materials so they’re very comfortable while they’re being worn.
In cases where mouth guards are not effective in relieving symptoms, other options like CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or even surgery can be considered.
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