When you wake up in the morning, do you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day? If so, you’re in the minority. Statistics show that even out of people who get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night, only 20% wake up feeling rested.
So if we’re getting enough sleep, why do we feel so tired? The answer may have more to do with the quality of the sleep than the quantity.
22 Million Americans Have Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder in which you stop breathing for brief periods while asleep. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the airway is blocked. People with sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times throughout the night. As you can imagine, this kind of experience doesn’t lend itself to restful sleep — and it isn’t good for the body, either.
Estimates suggest that somewhere around 22 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with a staggering 80% of those cases undiagnosed. When it comes to poor sleep quality, sleep apnea takes the cake. Daytime symptoms like sleepiness, morning headaches, difficulty focusing, and irritability signal sleep apnea during the day. But the major hallmark of the disorder comes while you’re sleeping: loud snoring.
But while the daytime symptoms can be inconvenient, it’s the larger health issues that come with sleep apnea that really make the disease scary. Research shows that untreated sleep apnea is tied to deadly health problems like stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease, among others.
Of course, treatment can reduce or eliminate both the inconvenient symptoms and the deadly ones. But if you’re one of the millions of undiagnosed cases, you may never get the treatment you need.
Your Dentist Can Treat Sleep Apnea
For a sleep apnea diagnosis, you’ll need to talk to a doctor. We can refer you to a sleep doctor if you wish. Sleep tests at home or in a lab are the only way to diagnose the condition. But once you’ve been diagnosed, you may consider seeking help from a surprising resource: Your dentist.
Your doctor’s first recommendation for sleep apnea treatment will probably be CPAP, which stands for “continuous positive airway pressure.” To use this device, you’ll wear a mask whenever you sleep. This mask will force air into your airway, keeping it open and preventing sleep apnea episodes.
This device is extremely effective, which is why it is the first line of treatment against sleep apnea. Unfortunately, many people find CPAP uncomfortable and inconvenient to use. They may be waking up with a dry, sore throat, having nightmares, or dealing with facial irritation or even feelings of claustrophobia from the mask. For these people, CPAP is an ineffective treatment simply because they refuse to use it regularly.
Your dentist can offer an alternative: An oral appliance, like a mouthguard, designed to hold your jaw in a position that will prevent the airway from closing. No mask, no machine, just an easy, effective solution to sleep apnea that you can fit into your pocket.