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Sleep Apnea
 is a common, underdiagnosed, sleep disorder when breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. Another form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or simply sleep apnea, can cause interrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. The combination of disturbed sleep and intermittent oxygen reductions can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, heart disease, metabolic, weight, mood and memory problems. It can also increase the risk of automobile accidents. Sleep apnea can be life-threatening and you should consult your doctor immediately if you feel you may suffer from it.

Symptoms

  • Chronic snoring is a strong indicator of sleep apnea and should be evaluated by a health professional.

Left untreated, Sleep Apnea is associated with an increased risk of the following:

  • Disturbances in Sleep
  • Excessive Sleepiness During the Day
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Attack
  • Congestive Heart Failure & Cardiac Arrhythmia
  • Stroke
  • Depression

Treatments 

The most common, reliable and most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device (CPAP). It involves a mask that fits over the nose, in the nose and/or mouth, and gently blows air into the airway to help keep it open during sleep. Many settings are now available to enhance comfort and compliance with CPAP.

Second-line methods of treating sleep apnea include dental appliances, which reposition the lower jaw and tongue, weight loss, posture therapy (sleeping on your sides) and upper airway surgery to remove excess tissue in the airway. In general, these approaches are most helpful for mild disease or heavy snoring.

Lifestyle changes are effective ways of mitigating symptoms of sleep apnea. Here are some tips that may help reduce apnea severity:

  • Lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, this is the most important action you can take to reduce and in some cases cure your sleep apnea.
  • Avoid alcohol; it causes frequent nighttime awakenings, and makes the upper airway breathing muscles relax.
  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking worsens swelling in the upper airway, making apnea (and snoring) worse.
  • Some patients with mild sleep apnea or heavy snoring have fewer breathing problems when they are lying on their sides instead of their backs.