sleep apnea1 Sleep apnea is a common and potentially deadly sleep disorder in which your breathing may stop for 10 seconds or more multiple times per hour.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two primary forms of sleep apnea:
– Obstructive sleep apnea
– Central sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of an airway obstruction that is typically caused by overly relaxed muscles in the throat. When these muscles relax, tissue in the throat can collapse, narrowing the airway and preventing adequate oxygen intake.

Central sleep apnea is less common and occurs when your brain and the muscles involved in breathing do not properly relay signals. Some patients suffer from a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Dangers of Sleep Apnea

In either form, sleep apnea can contribute to daytime drowsiness, difficulty focusing, morning headaches, depression and short-term memory problems.

Sleep apnea can also increase your risk for a number of potentially fatal medical problems. Sleep apnea–particularly obstructive sleep apnea–has been linked to a heightened risk for heart disease, heart attack, hypertension, stroke and diabetes.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Treatment

Snoring is the most familiar symptom of sleep apnea, although most people who suffer from sleep apnea experience multiple symptoms that may also include:
– Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
– Difficulty sleeping through the night
– Restlessness/tossing and turning during sleep
– Daytime fatigue
– Mood swings
– Waking up from sleep choking or gasping
– Decreased sex drive

Fortunately, there are a number of sleep apnea treatment options available. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices have long been the standard for sleep apnea treatment, and they consist of a mask sleep apnea patients wear during sleep and through which airflow is maintained via an external circulator.

While CPAP can be effective, many patients find the masks uncomfortable and discontinue the use of CPAP. Custom-made dental appliances are an increasingly popular and effective alternative to CPAP.

Similar to sports mouthguards, sleep apnea appliances are customized to your unique bite and are designed to keep your jaw properly aligned and your airway open as you sleep. A dentist qualified in sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment can help you determine if you have sleep apnea and whether a dental appliance is the best treatment choice for you.

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