Obstructive sleep apnea is a remarkably common sleep disorder amongst American adults, particularly those who are male, overweight, habitual drinkers, smokers and/or older than 50. Having said that, just about anyone of any age or gender can suffer from sleep apnea and given the incredibly debilitating effect it has upon one’s health, vitality and quality of life, effective and prompt treatment is of utmost importance. The problem is, since this common sleep disorder affects people while they are unconscious; it’s not always obvious to the patient what’s wrong with them. All they do know is that they suffer from fatigue and low energy levels, which could be symptoms of a plethora of other health issues. As such, obstructive sleep apnea often goes unrecognized or at least mistaken for bad snoring. So, it’s really in the hands of a patient’s bed partner or their medical healthcare team to determine whether they present with this common sleep disorder or not.
How to Recognize Obstructive Sleep ApneaAs a Bed Partner: The immediate symptoms of sleep apnea – the cycle of loud snoring punctuated with breathing pauses and then gasps, chokes or snorts for air – are quite recognizable. Even if your partner is a loud snorer, you might want to get him or her checked out for sleep apnea. Daytime symptoms include irritability, moodiness, fatigue, falling asleep during routine tasks and a reluctance to exercise, get active or get out. If your partner is a woman, listen up: the daytime symptoms of this common sleep disorder are not always obvious and can manifest as anxiety or even depression. If you have noticed this in addition to snoring at night, you should consult with a doctor about the possibility of her having obstructive sleep apnea. As a Dentist: As a dentist, you have a much better opportunity of catching this common sleep disorder, because your patients come to see you at least once or twice a year for routine check-ups, whereas doctors only see their patients when something is wrong. By asking your patients a few routine questions, you might ascertain whether or not they may suffer from sleep apnea. Since oral appliance therapy is considered an effective treatment for most mild to moderate cases of this common sleep disorder, you could then provide these patients with a working solution (once they have been officially diagnosed by a medical doctor.) Questions you pose might include:
- Do you sleep well at night?
- Do you snore? Have you ever been told that you snore?
- Do you ever feel exhausted, even after a full night’s rest?