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Sleep apnea is very common. Around 20 million Americans have it, many cases of which are unfortunately undiagnosed. Many with the disorder experience only mild symptoms, so much so that they may never notice. However, many other sufferers experience severe, even debilitating symptoms.
The word apnea comes from the Greek apnoia, meaning “breathless”. People who suffer from sleep apnea stop breathing in their sleep, often many times in a single night. Since the pauses are brief, they never reach full consciousness, and therefore are often unaware of any problem.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and a combination of the two. Obstructive is by far the most common – obstructive and mixed together account for around 99.6% of cases. For more information about the differences between obstructive and central, check out our sleep apnea page.
The big problem with sleep apnea is that it cuts the amount of oxygen reaching the brain during sleep. This has serious and wide ranging consequences. Sufferers often wake up feeling unrested, even when they believe they got a full night of sleep. It diminishes focus, raises blood pressure, contributes to depression, worsens diabetes and ADHD, and can cause headaches and even a stroke.
The most common treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Just as the name implies, a CPAP raises the pressure in your airway just enough to prevent your throat from closing during sleep, thereby preventing apneas. There are other treatments that may be appropriate depending on the severity of the disorder, ranging from appliances worn during sleep to surgical procedures designed to open the airway.
Before you can treat it, you have to know it’s there. With this in mind, Dr. Abeyta is a member of a growing group of dental professionals who have training in treating the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea in their patients. Choosing a dentist with this kind of training could save you from very serious health issues down the road.