Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders. There are several types of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is by far the most common type of sleep apnea. In this sleep disorder, the airway sometimes is obstructed during sleep. The person tries to inhale, but is not able to get any oxygen because the breathing passages are blocked.
Sleep apnea is diagnosed when a sleeping person stops breathing for ten seconds or more. Each episode is termed an apnea, and people with sleep apnea will have multiple apneas each night. However, since sleep apneas happen when one sleeps, it's hard to self-diagnose. You may not feel rested when you wake and you may be sleepy during the day without knowing why.
Sleep doctors, sleep centers and sleep studies can be part of the process of diagnosing sleep apnea. In other cases, a spouse's report of the patient's sleeping patterns may be enough. Some people seek out a sleep specialist to learn how to sleep better, whereas others see their family dentist for sleep apnea therapy.
Patients have a range of options when it comes to sleep apnea treatments. The most popular of these is a CPAP mask that provides continuous positive air pressure all night long to make breathing easier. However, splint therapy is an attractive option for patients who would rather wear a night guard than a sleep mask. Sleep apnea surgery is a therapy of last resort for people with severe sleep apnea.
People with mild sleep apnea symptoms may be able to effectively treat the sleep disorder with some simple lifestyle changes. These include doing breathing exercises, losing weight, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, and sleeping on one's side, in an inclined position, or with a sleep apnea pillow.