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What Is Sleep Apnea?

Learn what sleep apnea is from sleep specialist Janet Kennedy, Ph.D. in this Howcast video.


"Hi, I'm Janet Kennedy. I'm a licensed clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in New York City. You can find out more about me and my work on my website,
How to Sleep: What is Sleep Apnea?

The most common kind of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea and it essentially means you stop breathing for brief periods during the night because your airway gets blocked by your tongue, tonsils or other tissues in the back of your throat.

The two most common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring and falling asleep unintentionally during the day. Other symptoms include dry mouth in the morning and headaches.

Sleep apnea makes you feel tired during the day because your sleep is constantly interrupted during the night. Every time you stop breathing your body wakes you up so you can start breathing again. Even if you don't notice that you're waking up, you're not getting into the deep restorative sleep that makes you feel good in the morning.

There are some serious risks associated with sleep apnea and they include risks for accidents on the job, car accidents, and also heart attack and stroke.

There are some things that make sleep apnea worse that you have control over. Alcohol and smoking certainly make it worse. Being overweight is also a risk factor for sleep apnea so getting your diet under control and trying to lose weight with exercise can help.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition though and you're probably going to need medical attention. Your doctor can refer you for a sleep study in a sleep lab where they'll monitor you overnight and determine how serious the condition is and what appropriate treatments are available for you. The most common treatment for sleep apnea though is a breathing mask that you wear at night that keeps your airway open. Other treatments include surgery and some dental appliances that hold your mouth in the right position to keep your airway open during the night. Your doctor will tell you what's available for you.

You don't realize how much sleep you're missing and getting treatment will help you get back on track. "

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