Do you routinely catch yourself dozing off in the afternoon? Does your partner constantly complain about your snoring? Are you feeling like you just aren’t sleeping well at night, even though you can’t remember tossing or turning? If so, you may be suffering from a common but underdiagnosed problem known as obstructive sleep apnea.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Characterized by loud and frequent snoring, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat, blocking the upper airway. This obstruction causes you to stop breathing up to hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially life threatening disease that can increase the risk for serious health problems. These problems include congestive heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression and impotence.
Who has Sleep Apnea?
If you think you have sleep apnea, you’re not alone. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common problem that can affect people of any age and body type. The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine reports that at least 25 million adults in the United States suffer from sleep apnea.
Although sleep apnea can occur at any age, the risk increases as you get older. While the sleep disorder is more common in men, it can occur in women too, especially during and after menopause. Having excess body weight, a narrow airway, a recessed chin or misaligned jaw all can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
How do I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?
Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is, are you getting a good night’s sleep? If not, try recording yourself sleeping or ask your bed partner to listen while you sleep. Pay attention to the following warning signs.
- Loud, frequent snoring – Loud and frequent snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea.
- Breathing pauses – By definition, sleep apnea involves repeated breathing pauses throughout the night. Your bed partner may hear you gasp for breath in your sleep or may wait (slightly panicked) to hear you take your next breath.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (the ability to fall asleep anywhere, at any time)
- Memory problems
- Irritability or moodiness
- Decreased sex drive or impotence
- Morning headaches
- Acid reflux symptoms such as indigestion and heart burn or chest pain
If you think you may have sleep apnea – don’t worry – we can help. Our team at The Berkshire Center for Craniofacial Pain and Dental Sleep Medicine can answer your questions about obstructive sleep apnea, including the process for diagnosis and treatment options. The first step is for you to be diagnosed by a physician – and we can refer you to a great sleep doctor to get you started. Schedule a consultation to discuss sleep apnea by calling 413-528-4680.