Snoring can kill

It’s a familiar image on the comics page — a man sleeping the couch with a speech bubble over his head that says something like “ZZZZZZ.” Funny, right?

Not really.

Snoring is no laughing matter. It can keep the snorer — and anyone around him or her — from getting a good night’s sleep. This results in fatigue and irritability for both parties. And loud snoring is usually a sign of a truly deadly condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

When you are asleep, the muscles in your throat & tongue relax. In people with sleep apnea this causes the upper airway to collapse, shutting off the supply of air sometimes for as long as 100 seconds at a time dozens of times every night. When the airway is completely blocked, the sleeper eventually wakes up partially and gasps for air. Then the cycle begins again and again and again — more than once a minute in many cases.1

Because people don’t wake up completely, they may have no idea what’s happening — but their bodies know there’s been a breathing emergency. Their hearts beat faster and their blood pressure rises sharply.

Millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea2 — and 90 percent have no idea they have a problem. But, without proper treatment, all of them are at increased risk of coronary disease. In fact, according to David P. White, MD, director of the sleep disorders program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, people with sleep apnea have a 27 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 240 percent increased risk of congestive heart failure.3

Stroke risk increases, too. A study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reports that men with moderate to severe sleep apnea were about three times more likely to have a stroke than men without the condition.4

Because many people with sleep apnea don’t know they have a problem it’s often someone who sleeps nearby who persuades them to see a doctor.

Once the condition is diagnosed, it is totally treatable. Lifestyle changes and surgery usually do not help much.

One treatment is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine — a device that forces air into the throat to keep the airway open. Unfortunately, though, many people simply can’t tolerate their CPAP machines. Being tethered to the machine by a hose makes it hard for them to get comfortable in bed and many simply can’t get used to the face mask and the straps they need to wear around their heads.

Fortunately, our office can offer you another, far more comfortable way to protect your health AND get a good night’s sleep. Called mandibular advancement devices, these retainer-like appliances move the lower jaw and tongue forward to keep the throat from closing. With these devices there’s no noise, no tubes, no straps, and no irritating air blowing into your nose or mouth. So they’re far easier to tolerate than CPAP. And according to PubMed.gov, a service of the National Institutes of Health, “Snoring is improved and often eliminated in almost all patients who use oral appliances. Obstructive sleep apnea improves in the majority of patients.”5

If you or someone you love snores or has sleep apnea don’t wait. See your doctor right away. Then see us for a simple and comfortable way to breathe easier, sleep better and stay healthier. Remember that anyone who has untreated sleep apnea will lose an average of 8-10 years of life!

•••

Dr. Donald Johnson founded Northwest Treatment Center for Snoring & Sleep Apnea in Coeur d’Alene to help patients stop their snoring and live free with no limits! Obstructive sleep apnea is usually able to be treated with a small oral appliance. Dr. Johnson’s office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.NWSleepDoc.com and the office phone is (208) 667-4551. Schedule a free consultation appointment today!

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