Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form of sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles of your throat randomly relax to the point of blocking your airways while sleeping. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea experience symptoms like loud and frequent snoring, excessive fatigue even after sleeping for 8 hours, high blood pressure, headaches, and waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat.

When your throat muscles relax to the point of blocking your airways, what’s known as an “event” occurs, which can last anywhere from 1-10 seconds. Your brain recognizes the struggle for air, and goes through an awakening process, though it is often so short, most people don’t realize they are awake. Since this can occur frequently throughout the night, it’s no wonder people with obstructive sleep apnea experience fatigue!

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People who smoke, are overweight, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or have a family history of sleep apnea are more at risk to develop obstructive sleep apnea. Older males are twice as likely to develop sleep apnea than females.

With obstructive sleep apnea you are more likely to develop heart conditions, fatigue, eye problems, and medication complications.

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Depending on the results of your sleep study and your medical history, your doctor may prescribe different solutions. Most people would be set up with a CPAP or BiPAP which assists with breathing during sleep. Some people may also be able to get surgery to fix the muscles and jaw area to reduce or completely get rid of the frequency of events. Doctors often recommend some simple lifestyle changes for patients as well, including regular exercise, healthier diet, and avoiding alcohol.

Always keep a dialogue open with your doctor so that they are made aware of any changes to your health, even if they seem small to you. Sleep apnea is a serious condition, but with the right treatment plan, it can be manageable for you!

Sources: Mayo Clinic: Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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