What is Sleep Apnea?

If you feel exhausted during the day, but believe that you’ve been sleeping well every night, then you may be experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. The same may be true if you snore loudly every night, but have not yet found a successful solution to stop.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a sleep disorder that is marked by a pattern of increasingly louder snoring, then silence, and then snoring again. Each period of silence occurs when you stop breathing – a result of oral tissues blocking the airway – and the cycle can repeat itself hundreds of times a night.

Can sleep apnea affect my overall health?

Patients with sleep apnea will stop breathing periodically in their sleep until their bodies are forced awake just enough to start breathing again. Because breathing is largely automatic, your body doesn’t have to wake up fully to do it, and you might not realize that your sleep is being repeatedly interrupted. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to long-term sleep and oxygen deprivation, which can significantly increase your risks of developing a chronic illness in the future, such as cardiovascular disease.

What are sleep apnea’s symptoms?

As your airway becomes blocked, the sound of snoring grows louder. In fact, snoring is often the reason patients seek treatment and learn that they have obstructive sleep apnea. However, not everyone who snores exhibits sleep apnea. Other common symptoms that could point to sleep apnea include:

  • Occasional sudden awakenings
  • Persistent dry mouth and/or sore throat in the morning
  • Excessive daytime fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Inability to concentrate or pay attention
  • Unusual irritability
  • And more

How can I treat sleep apnea?

If your sleep apnea is severe, you may require a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which provides a steady, gentle stream of air to keep your airway open while sleeping. However, for many patients, Dr. Petto Messina can design a custom oral appliance that keeps the airway open by allowing the lower jaw to rest in a more comfortable, slightly forward position. The positioning of the jaw prevents oral tissues from collapsing into the airway, thereby preventing the cause of obstructive sleep apnea.