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The Patients’ Guide to Sleep Apnea

A quick resource to help answer the most common questions about sleep apnea and help patients understand their treatment options.

We Can’t Ignore Sleep Apnea and Other Sleep Disorders.

Whether we want to admit it or not,  sleep breathing problems could not only be affecting how we sleep – but it could be taking years off our lives.

You may be wondering how this is possible. Sleep apnea, and other related sleep problems, can lead to chronic disease that – if left untreated – will cause a deteriorating quality of life.

What is Sleep Apnea and Why Should We Be So Concerned?

Sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing are broad and can cover a whole spectrum of symptoms.

Everything from snoring and having a stuffy nose to just having a problem breathing when you’re sleeping; it’s all technically sleep apnea.

What causes us humans to get sleep apnea? It starts in our environment, as far as back as when we were infants with things like …

  • Pacifiers, 
  • bottles, 
  • Sippy cups

The above and more have changed the way our throat is formed and the way that air goes through our throat.  

We now have narrower airways than people might have had 200 years ago.

Narrower Tube = Less Room For Air To Pass Through

But just because you don’t have the obvious symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have sleep apnea.   Ever wake up in the mornings with the following thought: “ I don’t even feel like I slept last night!  Is it really time to get up?”… 

…but you get going on your day, and you push through with coffee or another stimulant.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a cup of joe, but a  lot of us are operating on what really is a suboptimal level of sleep all the time – and without even realizing it.

Here are a few things we do know about sleep apnea in America right now:

    • Two-thirds of Americans actually have some sort of sleep disorder. 
  • 42 million people have a sleep disorder of some kind.
  • 90% of these people go undiagnosed.

That means 1 in 5 adults has mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea.

What happens when we sleep

Even if your airway is small, when you are awake there are muscles in your neck that hold your airway open.  When we go to sleep and as we approach deep stage sleep, the muscles that normally keep our airways propped open are turned off and go limp.  The tongue spreads out and goes floppy and blocks the airway.  

Sometimes that airway becomes so narrow the breathing stops completely.  The brain has to figure out a way to get you breathing again, so it goes to a lighter stage of sleep and tenses up the muscles again.  In order for you to stay in a deep sleep long enough to complete a sleep cycle, your muscles must be able to stay in their shut-off, completely relaxed state.

Our airways have gotten smaller while everything else has stayed the same, so we’re left with bodies that aren’t equipped to breathe in deep-stage sleep.  Your breathing doesn’t suffer – your sleep does.  

Can Sleep Apnea Really Kill Me?

In the short term, you may not notice much, but it’s the long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation that can really impact our health.

For instance, there’s a huge correlation between sleep-disordered breathing and chronic disease. Here are some findings from recent studies on the subject:

  • 80 to 90% of people with diabetes have sleep apnea.
  • 50 to 90% of people that have had a stroke also have a sleep disorder
  • 20-25% of people with heart failure have sleep apnea
  • If you have a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, you have a four times greater chance of having a heart problem at night. 
  • A person with an airway obstruction problem is 15 times more likely to have a severe traffic accident. 
  • 100% of grinding teeth is usually because of a sleep issue. 

These are serious medical conditions that can be caused or influenced by sleep apnea and other sleep problems. If you can treat sleep disorders, not only will you feel better in the short term, but you will also help prevent long-term health conditions that could kill you.

What You Can Expect From This Sleep Apnea Guide

First of all, this sleep apnea guide isn’t a medical journal. It’s designed to be an easy-to-read reference that anyone can read.  (There are no confusing terms or medical jargon – we promise :).

Our mission is to help patients live well and live long and we believe getting better sleep consistently is an important step in achieving both.

What You’ll Learn

In each chapter, we’ll cover key aspects of sleep apnea and what we believe everyone should know about sleep disorder breathing, including.

The Effects and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

We’ll show you  how you can tell if you have sleep apnea, including the short-term and long-term effects.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea:

If you have sleep apnea or some other sleep disorder, there are treatments to help.  We’ll cover the different treatment options out there and help explain which option might be the best for you.

How Oral Health Affects Your Overall Health:

Our body is connected to everything we do! What’s happening in our mouth will affect the rest of our body and vice versa. This is an in-depth exploration of the connection between the mouth and the rest of the body(plus how you can improve both your overall and dental health).

How to Get a Sleep Apnea Test:

If the previous chapters have you thinking  you or a loved one might have sleep apnea, we’ll show you the key next steps to your recovery, including how to start treating this condition.

Though you can jump around this guide at any point, The Patients’ Guide to Sleep Apnea is most helpful when read in order..

What are the warning signs of sleep apnea?  Learn the signs and symptoms that show you may have a problem.


Remember, there are short term and long term effects that will affect your life and your health in a big way.  This isn’t something to ignore!


This chapter is perfect for you if you want to become better educated for the sake of your own health or the health of a loved one.

There are a few causes of sleep apnea, and you may have one or more of them.  It’s important to get to the root cause so you can treat rather than just cover up the problem.

Some of these causes started when you were only a child..  Others have come with age and falling into certain habitual patterns.   Either way, the proper treatment will address these causes, and eventually alleviate them.

This chapter covers the first step toward getting better.

You have probably only heard of one or two treatment options for sleep apnea.  We have some good news. Thanks to technology and better-informed experts, there are so many more options  to choose from now!

The option that’s best for you will depend on a few things, and it’s important that you find a dentist that can evaluate all of the possibilities with you.

This chapter will prove to you that there is a solution that will work for your life and health.

The answer to this question is so important..  Pairing up with the right treatment options depend on an accurate diagnosis – which is what you will get in this chapter.

In the past your only option was to go to an unfamiliar sleep center and try to “sleep” while wired to machines.  Most people realize you can’t really “sleep” in that environment.

Find out how to get the right diagnosis from the comfort of your own home and bed.


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