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Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can impact your day-to-day activities and even cause health issues. Let’s review some sleep apnea facts that can help you if you have it or so you can seek a diagnosis if you recognize some of the symptoms.

Fun Fact: Sleep apnea used to be called “Pickwickian syndrome.” That’s because Charles Dickens wrote about it in his 1837 novel, The Pickwick Papers. He wrote that the protagonist was, “middle-aged and overweight and snored like a banshee and had excessive daytime sleepiness.”

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two main types of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea. Of the two, OSA is the most common and is characterized by blockages in your airway from the soft tissues in the back of the throat obstructing the airway. For example, if the tongue or tonsils block the airway, air can’t get in.

Conversely, central sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to tell the muscles in the body to breathe. Without these signals, your lungs won’t know to breathe. If you have both of these types of sleep apnea simultaneously, you have what is called complex sleep apnea syndrome.

What both of these types have in common is that they create pauses in your breathing as you are sleeping. This can happen hundreds of times a night, preventing you from entering the necessary deep sleep stages. Chronic poor sleep can lead to stroke, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and hypertension.

Safety Risks

One of the biggest issues with chronic daytime sleepiness from sleep apnea is the risk of being in a driving accident. Drowsy driving is actually one of the most common causes of fatal vehicle crashes. In fact, driving while drowsy affects your normal driving abilities by slowing your reaction times, makes you unable to pay proper attention to the road, and compromises your decision-making abilities.

Factors Leading to Sleep Apnea

Obesity is a major risk factor of OSA, and losing weight can often help relieve symptoms. Large tonsils, narrow airways, a family history of sleep apnea, smoking and consuming alcohol can all lead to sleep apnea. This lack of oxygen can lead to the following:

-Loud snoring (just ask your partner!)
-Choking and gasping for air
-Excessive daytime sleepiness
-Mood swings and irritability
-Memory loss
-Decreased libido
-Morning headaches
-Dry mouth

Facts about Sleep Apnea

-It is more common in middle-aged men than in women
-It can be life-threatening
-It often goes undiagnosed
-Today, diagnosis can be done in a sleep study lab or monitored at home

Sleep Apnea Solutions

There are effective treatment options that can help you sleep better and relieve you of the symptoms of sleep apnea. OSA can be treated successfully with patients wearing a CPAP (continuous positive airflow pressure) mask if the condition is moderate to severe. Oral appliances that shift the jaw or tongue forward are also effective. Jaw repositioning surgery or a tonsillectomy can also help relieve symptoms.

If you would like to know more about sleep apnea, from diagnosis to treatment, we welcome you to call our practice and schedule a consultation. After all, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health!