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Do You Know If Sleep Apnea Is Hurting You?

  • June 16, 2016
  • You may have heard of sleep apnea, but you may not know if you or someone you love has this sleep disorder.

    That’s not a surprise. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million people in the United States have sleep apnea, and most of them are not aware of their condition.

    This isn’t just a nuisance that makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep. People with sleep apnea are more likely to have heart attacks and strokes, and they are more likely to be the driver in a car accident.

    If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, please get tested. The dentists of Gilbart Dental Care, with locations in Ellicott City, Frederick, and Hagerstown, MD, can help you find out if you have sleep apnea and help you treat it.

    The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

    If you suspect that you (or your partner) may have sleep apnea, take some time to answer  these questions:

    Do you snore frequently and loudly throughout the night?

    Do you often wake up feeling like you are gasping for breath?

    Do you often have to fight daytime sleepiness?

    Do you wake up frequently with headaches?

    Do you feel tired even after a night of sleep?

    Do you have trouble staying focused on a particular task?

    Do you often feel irritable or grouchy?

    If you answered yes to more than one of those questions, then we encourage you to come and talk to us. Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.

    What Is Sleep Apnea?

    We noted earlier that this is a sleep disorder. People who have sleep apnea will stop breathing in their sleep. People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is the most common type of sleep apnea, stop breathing because their airways become blocked when they fall asleep.

    This happens because the muscles around their airways relax, which allows nearby soft tissues to press into their airways. Someone with mild sleep apnea can stop breathing up to 14 times every hour that they are asleep. Each of these stoppages can last between 10 and 30 seconds.

    Your body responds to this by waking you up. You may not remember this since each awakening can be very brief although it does allow you to take another breath.

    As a result, you are constantly restarting your sleep cycle throughout the night. This means you may never reach the stage of deep sleep that sleep experts consider necessary for healthy sleep.

    This can explain the feelings of fatigue you experience in the morning. This can explain the daytime sleepiness, which is common with sleep deprivation.

    It also explains your increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. When your body is fighting every night to keep you breathing, it releases hormones that can lead to high or higher blood pressure.

    How Can Sleep Apnea Be Treated?

    The most common treatment for OSA is a CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure machine.

    The CPAP user wears a mask that is connected to a machine that blows air into his or her airways. This keeps the airways open so you can breathe easier and hopefully sleep deeper. (And that means less frequent snoring.)

    If the CPAP works for you, that’s great. Keep using it.

    Unfortunately, an estimated one-third to one-half of people with CPAPs do not use them consistently. Some are bothered by the sound of the machine. Some find the mask irritating.

    There is another option, however. Oral appliances have been approved as a treatment by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

    Our dentists can create one of these appliances for you (or someone you love).

    These appliances work by shifting your lower jaw forward while you sleep. This helps to keep your airways open, which allows you to breathe freely, snore less, and sleep better.

    Your spouse or partner will appreciate this as well since your snoring has likely made it difficult for them to sleep well, too.

    Treating your sleep apnea isn’t just for you. It’s good for your loved ones, and it’s good for your relationships, too.

    Don’t Waste Another Day (Or Night)

    Finding out if you have sleep apnea will get you closer to a treatment. Once you get used to your oral appliance, you may be surprised by how refreshed you feel when you wake up.

    To get started, fill our online form to make an appointment at the nearest Gilbart Dental Care location. You also can call the office closest to you in Hagerstown (240-347-0910), Ellicott City (240-347-0614), or Frederick (240-513-7523).

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