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What is Sleep Apnea?-Sebastian, FL

Your Short Guide to Sleep Apnea

Every night when the citizens of the U.S. go to bed, roughly 20 million people will experience sleep apnea. As a result, they will wake up feeling exhausted, foggy, and like they never went to bed, despite “sleeping” for 7-8 hours. In addition to the constant fatigue, sleep apnea has been shown to drastically increase the risk for other health complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and dementia. But what is sleep apnea, and if you think you’re struggling with it, what should you do? Dr. Patrick Pirkle has been providing personalized sleep apnea therapy to the Sebastian community for years, and below, he’s going to answer these questions and more.

Sleep Apnea Basics

exhausted woman sitting next to coffee cup

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by brief but frequent lapses in breathing throughout the night. When breathing is cut off, the body immediately goes into emergency mode and partially wakes up to restore normal respiration. This can happen up to 100 times an hour, and most of the time, these disturbances are so short that people don’t remember them in the morning.

As a result of all these interruptions, the sleep cycle is thrown off again and again, preventing someone from reaching the deeper, restorative stages. This is why a person can feel tired even if they are “getting” plenty of sleep.

Types of Sleep Apnea

picture of man with airway modeled to show sleep apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): By far the most common, this kind of sleep apnea occurs because the tissues in the mouth and throat collapse together during the night, creating a physical barrier to oxygen flow.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): With this condition, the brain repeatedly stops sending the signal to the body to breathe during sleep.
  • Complex or Mixed Sleep Apnea: Particularly unlucky people can suffer from both OSA and CSA at the same time.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

man sleeping on couch while “working” from home

Sleep apnea can be the source of several symptoms that affect the entire body, including:

  • Loud snoring every night
  • Always feeling tired regardless of the amount of sleep
  • Waking up suddenly feeling out of breath
  • Morning headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Trouble with memory or focus
  • Mood swings/depression
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Sexual dysfunction

What Can Be Done About Sleep Apnea

man waking up feeling well rested

While sleep apnea is very serious, it is also very treatable. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy is very common and involves a person wearing a mask connected to an air pump, and this device keeps the airway open using a steady stream of oxygen. Many find this approach to be uncomfortable and inconvenient, however, so an option that is becoming more popular is oral appliance therapy, which is what we offer at Sebastian Dental.

For this, all a patient has to do is wear a custom-made mouthpiece to bed, and this slightly positions the jaw forward so that the airway remains open throughout the night. As a result, a person is able to breathe normally, sleep deeply, and even stop snoring!

If any of the symptoms listed above apply to you, the best thing you can do is schedule a screening to determine if you have this sleep disorder. This will be the first step to starting treatment, and once you get your sleep under control, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel.

For questions about sleep apnea, your treatment options, or to schedule a screening at Sebastian Dental, click here to get in touch with our team.  

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