Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to several minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Then normal breathing starts again with a loud snort or choking sound.
Usually sleep apnea symptoms include waking up with a very sore or dry throat, loud snoring, restless sleep, occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation, sleepiness or lack of energy during the day ,mood changes, headaches, forgetfulness, recurrent awakenings or insomnia. They may be present for a long time, during which the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance.
Sleep apnea is treated with lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices, and surgery. Medicines typically aren't used to treat the condition.
Dental devices help keeping the airway open during sleep. A dentist or orthodontist can make a custom-fit plastic mouthpiece for treating sleep apnea. The mouthpiece will adjust your lower jaw and your tongue to help keep your airways open while you sleep. You may need periodic office visits so your doctor can adjust your mouthpiece to fit better.
The most commonly performed types of surgery for sleep apnea include:
- Nasal surgery Correction of nasal problems such as a deviated septum.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) A procedure that removes soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, increasing the width of the airway at the opening of throat.
- Mandibular maxillar advancement surgery to correct certain facial problems or throat obstructions that contribute to sleep apnea.
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