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Understanding sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that when left untreated can lead to exhaustion, headaches, mental fatigue. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a patient to stop and start breathing during the night.

Sleep apnea is most easily discovered when another person observes loud snoring, gasping for air or instances of stopped breathing during sleep.

Additional signs that you may have sleep apnea include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Waking during the night with a choking feeling
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty focusing during the day
  • Insomnia and/or hypersomnia

If you consistently experience sleep problems that leave you fatigued, sleepy and grumpy, it’s a good idea to speak with a doctor about a potential sleep disorder.

Treatment for sleep apnea

The symptoms of sleep apnea can often be reduced or eliminated by making healthy lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol and caffeine. It is also recommended to try sleeping on your side as this position can help keep the airway open. If lifestyle changes are not enough, the most common treatment solution is to sleep with a CPAP machine. A CPAP machine is an oral device that delivers a continuous flow of pressurized air into a mask that you wear while sleeping.

Sleep apnea surgery

While surgery will always be considered a last resort, some patients’ oral structures continue to cause airway blockages, even with a CPAP machine. In this case there are oral surgery procedures that may be appropriate.

Get help with sleep apnea

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, speak with your doctor about undergoing a sleep study. There are sleep tests that use equipment to monitor your heart, lung, and brain activity, breathing patterns, movements of the legs and arms, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.