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Do you find your days filled with chronic sleepiness or fatigue? When you wake up, do you have a dry mouth, sore throat, or headache? Does your sleep partner mention that you snore? If so, you may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of sleep apnea. You will want to seek treatment, as it is a serious sleep disorder arising from interruptions in your breathing throughout the night.

Risks of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA puts your health at risk as it diminishes the flow of oxygen to your organs and results in abnormal heart rhythms. It happens when your throat muscles relax, blocking part or all of your upper airway while you sleep. These muscles affect the following oral structures:

– Soft palate: The back of the roof of your mouth
– Uvula: The teardrop-shaped soft tissue hanging down the back of your throat
– Tonsils: Soft tissue on both sides of your throat that help fight off infection
– Tongue: A muscular organ in the mouth that helps you chew and swallow

When these muscles relax, your chest muscles and diaphragm have to work harder to open up the airway so you can get enough air into the lungs. Your breathing will be shallow, and you might stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer. The results? Insufficient oxygen levels and a buildup of carbon dioxide in your body.

When you do resume breathing, you might choke, gasp, or snort. It can go on five to 30 times an hour throughout the night. Though this disrupts restful sleep phases, you will likely be unaware it is even happening unless you have a bed partner who notices.

Other Symptoms of OSA May Include:

– Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
– Feeling cranky or depressed
– Having night sweats
– Sleep restlessness
– Diminished libido
– Sleeping with your mouth open
– Constantly waking up to empty your bladder
– Conditions like high blood pressure or gastroesophageal reflux disease

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treating OSA requires proper diagnosis and can involve spending a night in a sleep lab. Your blood oxygen levels, heart rhythm and rate, body position, movement of your arms and legs, the time spent in the different stages of sleep, and measuring your breathing and airflow will all be observed. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, there are treatments to help restore your sleep quality.

What You Can Do

Depending on the severity and degree of your symptoms, there are some things you can do on your own.

– Lose weight; even losing 10% of your weight can relieve symptoms.
– Don’t take sleeping pills or consume alcohol before bedtime as they relax the throat muscles.
– Switch to sleeping on your side instead of your back.
– Use nasal sprays for nasal congestion and sinus issues.

What We May Recommend

– Using a CPAP machine with a nasal pillow or mask that allows constant airflow to your nose or mouth while keeping your upper airway open.
– Wearing an oral appliance while you sleep, such as an oral mandibular advancement device. It keeps your tongue from blocking your throat and moves your lower jaw forward to keep your airways open.
– Having surgery for excess tissue blocking airflow into your throat and nose (from swollen tonsils, adenoids or a deviated septum).

As you can see, diagnosing and treating sleep apnea is vital for your overall health and quality of life. You don’t have to live with these uncomfortable and life-threatening symptoms! Our sleep specialists are here to help you find the sleep solutions you need.