Do you ever feel like no matter how long you sleep, it’s not enough? Does your bed partner complain about your snoring? Are you dozing off in the afternoon or feel like you always need to take a nap? If so, you might be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition that occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. This can cause you to stop breathing hundreds of times per night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute at a time. These breathing pauses are followed by brief awakenings that disturb the quality of your sleep.
Who has Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
If you think you have sleep apnea, you’re not alone. At least 54 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. Other factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea include having excess body weight, a narrow airway, a recessed chin or misaligned jaws.
How Do I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include snoring or choking or gasping sounds. But you can also have sleep apnea, even if you don’t snore frequently or loudly. OSA can cause silent pauses in your breathing, so be on the lookout for these additional symptoms as well:
· Waking in the morning feeling unrefreshed
· Being tired during the day
· Morning headaches
· Waking up frequently at night to go to the bathroom
· Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
How is OSA Diagnosed?
Obstructive sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a doctor, so you should ask your primary care doctor for a sleep evaluation. Your primary care doctor may provide a diagnosis or may refer you to a doctor who specializes in treating sleep problems. To find out if you have OSA, your doctor or the sleep specialist will complete a sleep evaluation. This may involve either an overnight sleep test at a sleep center or a home sleep apnea test (HSAT). A sleep specialist will interpret the data from your sleep test. The information from the evaluation and the sleep test results will be used to determine if you have OSA.
How is OSA Treated?
If you are diagnosed with OSA, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. OSA treatments include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliance therapy (OAT), or surgery. CPAP therapy is a very common treatment for OSA, but OAT is also an effective treatment option. An oral appliance looks like a nightguard and is worn only during sleep. It supports the lower jaw in a forward position to help keep your upper airway open, which prevents sleep apnea and snoring. If you and your doctor decide that OAT is the best treatment option for you, your doctor will write you a prescription for a custom-made oral appliance.