According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), upward of 50 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea or another sleep disorder that prevents healthy sleep and causes daytime fatigue, memory problems, and an inability to concentrate among other dangerous symptoms.

Your physician should not be one of them. Here’s why:

adult laying in bed unable to sleep

1. Doctors Know the Dangers

In recent years, as more has become known regarding the causes of sleep apnea and its potentially deadly effects, medical organizations and health professionals nationwide have increased their efforts to bring awareness to this treacherous, but treatable, condition.

Volumes of medical research have linked sleep apnea to a heightened risk of severe health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. Clinical studies have also demonstrated that certain factors, including obesity, can increase an individual’s risk of developing sleep apnea.

2. We Depend on Our Physicians

Moreso than many other professions, we rely on our dentists, general practitioners and surgeons to be well-rested and attentive. These are among the first characteristics that sleep apnea erodes.

Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated instances in which breathing stops during sleep. This cycle interrupts natural sleep patterns. Over time, those with sleep apnea often experience insomnia, daytime sleepiness, inability to concentrate, memory problems and irritability. Not only are these not ideal bedside-manner traits, but they are detrimental to a physician’s ability to focus on the assessment and treatment of a patient’s health.

3. Deep Understanding of Anatomy

In addition to knowing the symptoms and health risks of sleep apnea, doctors have a detailed understanding of the anatomy and the mechanics behind sleep apnea. For example, the most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the muscles in the rear of the throat relax during sleep and prevent adequate air passage.

The resulting reduced airflow can lower the oxygen level in the blood and trigger the brain to stir the body from sleep in order to restore an open airway. Unfortunately, the effect is only temporary. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly due to the airway obstruction, and they may wake choking or gasping for air multiple times per night (although the awakening episodes are fleeting, and most sleep apnea sufferers don’t remember them).

4. Knowledge that Help is Out There

Even physicians who don’t deal directly with sleep apnea and other sleep disorders should be aware that treatments exist.

CPAP, which administers a continuous airflow through a mask while a patient sleeps, has long been used to treat sleep apnea and minimize its accompanying health risks. Oral appliances have also proven effective, and have become increasingly popular; similar to sports-style mouth guards, these comfortable devices are custom crafted to fit a patient’s unique bite and maintain a free-flowing air passage during sleep.

An experienced sleep dentist can help determine the right sleep apnea treatment for your individual needs. To learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options in Detroit, please call the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness at (248) 480-0085 to schedule your appointment.