Sleep apnea is a very serious condition that affects millions of people and yet is regularly ignored by people who suffer from it. Well, perhaps “ignored” isn’t the right word. They’re certainly very aware of the affect it has on them. But they never get the treatment they need to reclaim a long, healthy night’s rest.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Simply put, sleep apnea refers to a condition in which someone involuntarily stops breathing while they’re asleep. There are two basic categories of this disorder, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). OSA is the most common and is a physical condition – meaning that something is physically blocking the airways. CSA is the result of the brain failing to send the right signals to the right muscles. It’s important to understand the difference because that will determine the treatment you receive.

Sleep apnea also happens in different levels of severity, and there are some risk factors that may make one person more likely to suffer from this condition. This may include:

  • Age – It is mostly seen in middle-aged men and post-menopausal women.
  • Weight – A BMI over 25 (and definitely over 30) have a much higher risk.
  • Nasal condition – An abnormal nasal situation could create breathing problems while sleeping.
  • Smoking – Smokers have 3x higher rates of sleep apnea over those who have never smoked.
  • Narrow airways – Thinner airways are more likely to cause sleep apnea.

Treating the Condition

The most common way to treat sleep apnea is with a CPAP machine, which consists of a mask and machine that creates air pressure through your airways. It can be loud and uncomfortable, though, so a lot of people end up “forgetting” to use the machine, even though they know they have a problem.

A simple alternative is to treat sleep apnea with a special dental appliance. These small plastic devices are a lot like a sports mouth guard, but instead of protecting your teeth they prevent your tongue and other soft tissues from falling back into your throat and blocking the air passages.

This is quickly becoming a very popular option because it is easy to wear, doesn’t get in the way of a comfortable night’s rest, and can be packed up and taken on trips away from the home. There’s no noise from a machine producing the air pressure, and it only takes a little while to get used to wearing them.

Why It’s Important

A lot of people know they have a problem, but they often write it off as “just feeling a little tired.” But the condition is much more serious than that. If you don’t treat sleep apnea it can lead to severe health problems like:

  • Heart Disease – Some studies say that you’re three times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems with untreated sleep apnea.
  • Stroke – Constant disruption of the airflow throughout the night makes it hard for the brain to regulate the flow of blood through the arteries and too the brain. This can cause a stroke in some people.
  • Constant Fatigue – Your body can only do so much without getting the rest it needs. With so many sleepless nights, it won’t be able to rest and rejuvenate like it needs to.
  • Hypertension – Studies also show that nearly half of the people who have sleep apnea also suffer from high blood pressure.

Don’t wait to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep apnea is a very serious condition, and the sooner you get it treated, the healthier you will be. A simple dental appliance is often all it takes to keep your airways open and keep you asleep.