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Feeling out of breath after running a few miles is normal. Being out of breath while you sleep is not. But millions of people with sleep apnea are literally out of breath every night, according to the National Institutes of Health.
If sleep apnea sounds Greek to you, that's because it is -- apnea is Greek for "without breath." People with sleep apnea stop breathing in their sleep -- sometimes up to 100 hundred times an hour -- for one minute or longer.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common and is caused by a blockage of the airway that occurs when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Late nights out will surely cause you to feel groggy in the morning. But if you go to bed early every night and still feel tired and disoriented the following day, you just might have sleep apnea.
Snoring is also a strong indication of sleep apnea. If anyone tells you that you have loud bouts of snoring followed by moments of silence, sleep apnea is probably to blame.
It's easy to believe that disorders affect everyone but you. But the fact is sleep apnea affects over 12 million Americans. So if you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you may be at a higher risk for developing sleep apnea:
- Are you overweight?
- Do you have a history of heart disease?
- Do you smoke or drink alcohol frequently?
- Does your famly have a history of sleep apnea?
- Are you of African, Pacific Islander or Mexican descent?
Most people don't know they have sleep apnea. But left untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, headaches and even impotency. Moreover, sleep apnea can affect your job performance and impair your driving.
Simple changes such as shifting sleep positions, making sure you go to bed at the same time every night and losing weight can help. But curing sleep apnea may also require dental treatment:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) -- A mask and headgear that works by blowing pressurized room air into the airway in order to keep it open.
Oral Appliances -- Oral appliances push the lower jaw forward or prevent the tongue from falling back over the airway, or a combination of both. Silent Nite® is an example of an oral appliance.
Surgery -- There are different types of surgeries available to treat sleep apnea. Dental surgery creates a more open airway that is less susceptible to blockages.