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Sleep Apnea: Who Is At Risk?

Sleep apnea is an increasingly common disorder in which you repeatedly stop breathing when you’re sleeping. Many write off the symptoms, thinking other things like snoring, weight gain or aging are to blame. The frightening truth is, most sufferers of sleep apnea will continue to go undiagnosed and untreated until its life-threatening side effects rear their ugly head. 

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common; this is when the throat muscles relax and close in on your airway.
  • Central Sleep Apnea occurs when your brain doesn’t respond properly to send signals that control your breathing. 
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome is a combination of both.

Let’s take a closer look at who is at risk and how to treat sleep apnea. 

What Does Sleep Apnea Look, Sound and Feel Like?

Most people assume sleep apnea is just snoring. And while that is a side effect of your airways collapsing at night, sufferers experience many other symptoms they may not even identify as SA. 

Many complain of: dry mouth, frequent headaches, daytime drowsiness, insufficient sleep, heightened anxiety or depression, irritability, and the dreaded sleep divorce — when you and your partner have to sleep in separate rooms. 

How Many People Have Sleep Apnea?

Approximately 22 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, with around 20% experiencing at least mild symptoms.  One in 15 suffer from moderate to severe symptoms. 

Who Gets Sleep Apnea?

  • 26% of people between ages 30 and 70 experience a form of sleep apnea, and the prevalence of sleep apnea continues to increase with age.
  • A sleep study conducted by the University of California deducted that African Americans are more than twice as likely to develop OSA. 
  • Both men and women may suffer from this sleep disorder, however data has shown men are at higher risk — 25% of middle-aged men will experience symptoms, while only 9% of women have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. 

Can Children Have Sleep Apnea?

Research has shown that 1% to 4% suffer from sleep apnea, and it’s particularly common among kids between ages 2 and 8.  However, the symptoms and causes differ from those in adults, enlarged adenoids and tonsils being the most common cause. 

When is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Sleep apnea is most dangerous when it is not diagnosed. Not all treatments will attack the root cause and create lasting effects, however any treatment is better than no treatment at all. 

Sleep apnea has been linked to hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, mental illness, and even car crashes and work accidents. 

Your body needs proper rest in order to function. And when it’s feeling attacked every night, you have a higher risk of becoming distracted and inattentive in the moments when it matters most.

Who Treats Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea may be treated by Otolaryngologists (ENT doctors), Pulmonologists, or dentists. Each will have their own method of treatment.

  • Pulmonologists will treat respiratory conditions that may exacerbate sleep apnea like asthma, COPD, and narrow airways. 
  • Dentists can provide an oral appliance that shifts the jaw and keeps the throat open for better airflow.
  • ENTs treat issues related to the ears, nose, and throat, so they will look to diagnose and treat issues like obstructed airways, deformities in the nose, a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, allergies, or upper respiratory infection.

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed and Treated?

Sleep apnea is diagnosed through a sleep study. At ADVENT, we send you home with the smallest sleep study available — non-intrusive, easy to use, and monitored with a mobile app. 

It can be treated in one of 3 ways: with the forced-airflow of a CPAP machine; an oral appliance that manipulates the jaw and airways; or simple in-office procedures that treat the root causes rather than just the symptoms.

Essentially, anyone can develop sleep apnea, and it’s important to be properly assessed and diagnosed to prevent its long-term damaging effects to your body’s system while you sleep at night.

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