Heavy Snorers May Be At Risk for Sleep Apnea

Minh Nguyen
 


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Sleep apnea literally means, “stop breathing during sleep, " and that is exactly what happens to thousands of people who are affected by the disorder. Millions more are undiagnosed because their symptoms are simply explained away as tiredness or other factors. If someone has sleep apnea, a neurological problem causes soft tissues to repeatedly block the airway during sleep, causing the sufferer to literally gasp for air.

Symptoms and features of sleep apnea include:

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day, lack of concentration, forgetfulness;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Obesity;
  • Loud snoring, snorting or gasping;
  • Irritability;
  • Depression;
  • Excessive sweating at night;
  • Insomnia or restless sleep; and
  • Confusion upon wakening and morning headaches

Usually a partner recognizes symptoms before the patient, because the person sharing a room is all too aware of the loud snoring, a sudden snort or gasp for air, and constant restlessness. Someone with sleep apnea can actually stop breathing for about 10 seconds at a time, up to 400 times in one night!

Sleep apnea can be attributed to physical features, such as a receding chin or large neck, and external factors, such as use of sleeping pills, obesity, nighttime alcoholic beverages, heartburn and high altitudes.

The facts of sleep apnea are:

  • An estimated 18-25 million people have sleep apnea;
  • Less than one million people realize it;
  • Probably 30-40 million people have some kind of sleep disorder and most are unaware of it;
  • Sleep disorders add 15.9 billion to the total health care bill in the United States;
  • Severe sleep apnea sufferers stop breathing more than 50 times per hour;
  • 10% of men of working age, 2% of women and 3% of children have sleep apnea;
  • Obese children are four times as likely to suffer from sleep apnea than children of average weight;
  • African-American children are 3 times more at risk than children of other races;
  • 56,000 automobile crashes stem annually from driver fatigue; and
  • Drivers with sleep disorders often react slower than drivers slightly above the legal alcohol limit.

You are more at risk if you are:

  • African American;
  • Living in a rural area;
  • Between 40 and 65 years old;
  • A smoker;
  • Drink alcohol at night; and
  • Diabetic.

Consequences:

There are serious consequences to ignoring this potentially life-threatening disorder. If untreated, your risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke is higher. The risk of accidents is also increased because if you drive or operate machinery, you may not be as focused as you could be after a restful sleep.

How to diagnose sleep apnea:

Most physicians are not trained extensively in sleep disorders and do not usually focus on them. You should be aware of the symptoms, and if you believe you or someone you love may have this problem, contact our office or your physician. A sleep test is usually performed to monitor the extent of the problem. Additionally, a special questionnaire may help determine whether the symptoms indicate sleep apnea.

Relief for the chronic snorer:

If you are not diagnosed with sleep apnea, as a habitual snorer you may be able to receive help with an anti-snoring dental device. There are many different devices available to you. This pliable plastic appliance should be carefully fitted by us to ensure it will stay in place while you sleep.

For information, contact Houston dentist-Minh Nguyen, D.D.S. at drnguyen@softdental.com . SoftDental (http://www.softdental.com ) is Houston's Premier Laser, Family and Cosmetic Dentistry .

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