It is estimated that sleep apnea affects up to 18 million Americans. And, perhaps surprisingly, sleep apnea can affect people of all ages and sizes. In fact, many patients are surprised that their ideas and preconceptions about sleep apnea can be inaccurate.
Sleep apnea is a condition that is characterized by breathing difficulties during sleep. Sleep apnea can affect not only the quality of your day-to-day life by contributing to fatigue and poor mood, but it can also have long-term, serious health consequences. It is often difficult to diagnose because it occurs during sleeping hours, but if you do have sleep apnea, it is critical to recognize and treat this condition for the benefit of your overall health.
Even though sleep apnea is prevalent in the population, many people do not have all the facts about this diagnosis. Read on to find out the truth about some widespread myths about sleep apnea.
There are actually three types of sleep apnea, and the distinction is important for treatment. Obstructive sleep apnea is most common and is caused when muscles in the throat relax too much during sleep. Central sleep apnea is less common and is a result of the nervous system not sending accurate signals to the body, and it can be a result of another condition affecting the brain. Complex sleep apnea is the third type, and it is characterized by a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea occurs more frequently in patients who are overweight or obese. However, it can still occur in patients who are of normal weight. It is important to know that not all overweight people have sleep apnea, and not all sleep apnea sufferers are overweight.
Sleep apnea is characterized by interruptions of breathing during sleep. Snoring is often a symptom of sleep apnea, and it is a reason that partners are often more likely to notice sleep apnea than a patient themselves. But sleep apnea can occur even if you don’t snore. And snoring can occur even without sleep apnea.
Up to five times as many men are diagnosed with sleep apnea than women. This means that millions of women in America still suffer from sleep apnea. It is also widely speculated that sleep apnea is widely underdiagnosed in women, potentially due to a reluctance in women to admit to snoring or the possibility that symptoms of sleep apnea in women often differ from those in men.
The risk of sleep apnea rises with age. However, it is possible for children to suffer from each type of sleep apnea. If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, seek medical help. The rise in childhood obesity means a corresponding increase in the number of children with sleep apnea. However, a physical obstruction, such as chronic tonsilitis, may also contribute to sleep apnea.
Many patients believe that a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is the only treatment for sleep apnea. Unfortunately, the belief that wearing an uncomfortable device like a CPAP may cause many patients to avoid seeking a diagnosis. However, for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea or those with more severe sleep apnea who don’t tolerate a CPAP, a night guard may be an effective sleep apnea treatment.
Another fact you might be surprised to learn is that your dentist can treat sleep apnea. We are experts in oral appliances, including fitting you for a night guard to keep your airway open while you sleep. If you are interested in finding out whether a night guard can help your sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with our office for an evaluation.