Like most adults, you’re probably in a sleep debt.
That means you’re not getting enough sleep at night. Whether you have a hard time turning your mind off after a long day of work or you drank a big cup of coffee while catching up with a friend, something is stopping you from getting a proper night of sleep.
But what if your inability to catch a few good Zs is because of something beyond your control?
If you can’t get a good night’s sleep, you may have sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. It happens when the muscles that support the soft tissues in your throat, like your tongue and soft palate, relax temporarily, causing your airway to become narrowed or closed. This causes your breathing to be momentarily cut off. The chances of developing OSA increase with different factors such as age and weight gain.
How does sleep apnea affect my overall health?
Not only does it affect your breathing, it also significantly impacts your life expectancy. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, sleep apnea can decrease your lifespan by several years. If left untreated, it can lead to high blood pressure, increased risks of heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms and even heart failure.
Those are some of the bigger issues. It can also contribute to other health conditions that may have serious, even deadly consequences, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Obesity and Type 2 diabetes
- Concentration and memory problems (brain imaging shows permanent changes similar to Alzheimer’s)
- Morning headaches from excess carbon dioxide buildup in your lungs
- Nocturia (getting up in the middle of the night to empty your bladder) and nocturnal enuresis (bed wetting)
If I have OSA, do I have to use a CPAP machine?
If you’ve seen CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines in movies or in commercials, you’ve probably thought that it seems horrible. Getting diagnosed with sleep apnea is the first step to getting a restful sleep. But the idea of spending your nights hooked up to a bulky machine is enough to make you believe the saying ignorance is bliss.
There are some patients who swear by their CPAP because they finally feel good, but there are also some people who find the pump, hose, and mask uncomfortable and inconvenient. If you think you’d fall into the latter category, there is an alternative.
Oral appliance therapy is a new way to manage your sleep apnea by repositioning your jaw. Since your jaw is the main support for your airway, adjusting it allows you to breathe normally while you sleep. Because of their comfort and convenience, more people are choosing to switch to oral appliances over CPAP machines. It is so effective, it has become recommended as a treatment for mild or moderate sleep apnea and as an alternative for people with severe sleep apnea who can’t tolerate CPAP machines.
How can I start managing my sleep apnea?
Once you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the first step is to begin looking for ways to manage it. You can speak to a doctor or a sleep dentist, like Dr. Andrea Stevens to find out which treatment is right for you.