About 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. are chronic sleep apnea sufferers; more than 85 percent of them are undiagnosed.

The Mayo Clinic defines sleep apnea as a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Sleep apnea sufferers may snore loudly and feel tired, even after a full night’s sleep.

There are two main types of sleep apnea:  Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) commonly occurs when an airway collapses when you sleep; Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when your brain doesn’t send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. A person with OSA may  experience shallow breathing and possible pauses in breath. Breathing interruptions can last anywhere from a few seconds to over a minute and occur up to 30 times an hour. These disturbances can cause extreme fatigue the following day.

Signs of Sleep Apnea
•  Has anyone noticed that you gasp for air or even stop breathing while you are sleeping?
• Do you often wake up “unrefreshed?”
• Are you excessively sleepy during the day?
• Has your energy and motivation decreased?
• Do you find it difficult to concentrate?
• Do you have high blood pressure?
• Have you suffered a stroke or heart attack?
• Do you have type 2 diabetes?

Serious Risks to Your Health
•  High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression and greater risk of dying from cancer.
•  60 to 65 percent of diabetic patients have OSA.
•  83 percent of those on blood pressure meds have sleep apnea.
•  A person with untreated sleep apnea is seven times more likely to be involved in a vehicle accident.

What Are the Treatment Options?
• CPAP machine is the No. 1 treatment choice.
• Oral appliance made by a dentist.
• Various types of surgery.

How Does an Oral Appliance Work?
An oral appliance keeps the lower jaw in a for- ward position, bringing the back of the tongue forward and opening up the airway. It is recommended for patients with mild or moderate sleep apnea and those who cannot tolerate a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. Severe sleep  apnea is usually treated with a CPAP or surgery.

For more information on CPAP alternatives, see your dentist or primary care physician.

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