Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the tonsils, tongue, or tissues in the throat obstruct your airway, causing your breathing to stop temporarily. It is easily one of the most commonly misunderstood sleep disorders, which explains why so many patients allow it to go untreated for long periods. Dr. Jeffrey Leibowitz, a general dentist who treats sleep apnea in Astoria, NY, debunks popular misconceptions about OSA.
Myth: There is no difference between sleep apnea and chronic snoring.
This is easily the most misunderstood aspects of OSA, and it is one that can have serious consequences for your health. Although loud, chronic snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, the two are not the same. Anywhere from one-fourth to one-half of men and women in America snore at some point in their lifetime, but sleep apnea affects less of the population—about 18 million.
Furthermore, sleep apnea isn’t just a matter of inconvenience, as snoring often is. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you can actually stop breathing for 10 to 20 seconds at a time. Even more frightening, this can occur as many as 500 times in a single night. Someone who does not understand the differences may turn to over-the-counter remedies for snoring rather than seeking professional help.
Myth: Sleep apnea does not pose serious health risks.
Wrong again, says Dr. Leibowitz. Any time your body is deprived of oxygen, there is a serious problem. Unlike chronic snoring, sleep apnea can actually be life-threatening. OSA decreases the quality of your sleep, making you more likely to experience daytime drowsiness, fatigue, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating. You are also more likely to experience high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, or a decreased libido.
Myth: Sleep aids will help eliminate symptoms of sleep apnea.
Actually, taking sleeping medications, muscle relaxants, or alcohol before bedtime can actually make the problem worse. These substances relax the muscles of your airway, which can interfere with your ability to breathe. Any medication that has a sedative effect will create similar problems. Even eating a heavy meal before bedtime can interfere with your ability to breathe.
When you visit Dr. Jeffrey Leibowitz, he may recommend implementing lifestyle changes to improve your quality of sleep and your ability to breathe while sleeping, such as:
- Creating a sleep-friendly environment in your bedroom, eliminating distractions
- Losing weight through exercise and a healthy diet
- Avoiding caffeine in the evenings
These simple adjustments often produce dramatic improvements, although you may also need to wear a specially fitted intraoral appliance. The device, which you wear while sleeping, carefully positions your jaw in a way that prevents your airway from collapsing.
Have you experienced symptoms of sleep apnea? To learn more about OSA and its treatment, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jeffrey Leibowitz, contact our office at 718-728-8320. We welcome patients from across upstate New York and New Jersey, including Astoria, Queens, NYC, and the surrounding communities.