Understanding Sleep Apnea
Do you share a bed with someone who keeps you up all night (for the wrong reasons!)? Snorers are everywhere, and to say you’ve never done it is probably a bit of a fib. We all snore once in a while, but some of us are a bit louder and more consistent than others, aren’t we?
If you’ve been tolerating a loud snorer for a while then there’s something you – and they – need to be aware of: sleep apnea. It’s a serious condition that can affect anyone and can lead to a variety of dramatic health effects. We can treat sleep apnea at our Rochester office, but first you need to be aware of what it is and how to recognize it!
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Let’s break it down by going to the most common complaint: loud snoring. You snore when your airway is partially blocked. When you sleep the muscles in your neck relax, soft tissue pushes on your throat, your jaw falls open, and next you know it takes some rumbling to move air into your lungs.
When your airway becomes completely blocked you experience an episode called an apnea. These interruptions in breathing last from just a few seconds to minutes, during which you can’t get any oxygen at all.
Apneatic episodes don’t necessarily worsen over time, but the stress and harm the cause to your body certainly does. The longer you suffer from untreated sleep apnea the more likely you are to suffer from any one of these various complications:
- High blood pressure due to constant airway blockage
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart attacks
- Severe headaches
- Daytime fatigue or falling asleep during normal activities
Sleep apnea won’t go away, but in most cases it can be easily managed with proper treatment. These sleep apnea outcomes aren’t the kind of thing you want to risk when solutions are readily available!
Recognizing Sleep Apnea: The Signs And Risk Factors
Snoring isn’t the only symptom of sleep apnea, but it is by far the most common and noticeable. Keep an eye out for these other signs that may indicate your problem is greater than simply chronic snoring:
- Waking in the morning with a dry throat
- Waking up during the night feeling like you’re choking
- Headaches in the morning
- A loss of libido
- Headaches in the morning
- Sleep that’s restless, includes lots of tossing and turning
- Severe daytime fatigue
If those symptoms match you or someone you love then you should have them checked out right away. We can help you schedule a sleep study in the comfort of your own home.
Sleep apnea symptoms, when combined with the presence of certain risk factors, make diagnosis much easier. Part of recognizing and seeking treatment for sleep apnea is knowing if you fall into any of these categories:
- Being overweight or obese
- Being a male
- Being over the age of 40 (especially for women – post-menopausal women are just as at risk as men)
- Having a large neck (greater than 17 inches for men, 16 for women)
- Still having your tonsils
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Being a smoker or heavy drinker
- Suffering from chronic nasal congestion
- Suffering from acid reflux or GERD
It becomes easy to pinpoint sleep apnea as the problem when you have any of those risk factors combined with symptoms and a positive sleep test. Next comes seeking out the best treatment for your needs.
Sleep Apnea Relief: It Can Be Simple!
In the past the only reliable way to get relief for sleep apnea was with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. These machines are attached to a face mask and force pressurized air into your lungs while you’re sleeping. They’re effective, but a lot of patients have trouble adjusting to them.
To make things easier we offer a variety of oral appliances at our Rochester offices. These simple, custom fit mouthguards hold your jaw and tongue comfortably in place while you sleep, allowing you to breath easily and without obstruction. They also force you to breathe through your nose, which eliminates snoring in non-apnea patients as well.
Some patients will still require CPAP treatment, but those are rare and extreme cases. The majority of patients find relief with oral appliance therapy.
Don’t Wait For Things To Get Serious
Treatment for sleep apnea can be simple, and we can help you get started today. Call our Rochester offices at 507-315-2932 or simply request an appointment online. Be sure to let us know you might have sleep apnea so we can prepare a proper treatment plan to meet your needs.
We look forward to seeing you soon!