Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes one to stop breathing and start again during sleep. It happens multiple times per night. It can affect oxygen levels. More than 18 million people suffer from this disorder. Although it’s most common in those over the age of 40, it can affect someone at any age.

Symptoms include snoring, periods of breathing cessation, abruptly waking up short of breath, dry mouth and sore throat after waking up, irritability, problems focusing, headaches in the morning and sleepiness.

There are many myths about sleep apnea. The facts are this:

  • Those who suffer from sleep apnea can stop breathing up to 400 times a night, each time lasting 10-30 seconds. Waking up that many times throughout the night can exhaust you. Sleep apnea that is not treated can lead to car accidents, work injuries, strokes and heart attacks.
  • Sleep apnea also disrupts breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. This is caused by the tonsils, tongue and other tissues blocking the airways in the back of your throat. Sleeping on your side is best for those with sleep apnea. It helps keep the airways open while sleeping.
  • Alcohol and sleeping pills can cause problems for those with sleep apnea. Although these may make you tired, they also cause the muscles in the back of your throat to become relaxed. This can then lead to the airways becoming blocked.
  • OSA sleep apnea is common in children, as it affects one in 10. Symptoms are mild in most cases and children tend to outgrow it. However, it can lead to other health or behavior problems.
  • Weight loss can help improve sleep apnea. It’s best to speak with your physician about weight loss options if you are overweight and suffer from sleep apnea.
  • Mouthpieces and CPAP machines might help with sleep apnea. For those with mild sleep apnea, their dentist can order a mouthpiece to help keep the airway open while sleeping. For those with more serious sleep apnea, their physician can order a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure). This machine helps bring steady air in to the airway during sleep.
  • Surgery may be an option, but not for everyone. However, if nothing is helping with your sleep apnea, discuss additional options with your physician.

Sleep apnea is a common, serious sleep disorder. Your partner may be your best source of your symptoms. If you suffer from some of the symptoms of sleep apnea, contact your physician. You do not have to suffer!