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Snoring is a common problem among all ages and both genders, and it affects approximately 90 million American adults - 37 million on a regular basis – according to the National Sleep Foundation. Snoring usually becomes more serious as people age. It can lead to fragmented and un-refreshing sleep, which translates into poor daytime function (tiredness and sleepiness), and it is also a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition that can lead to long-term risks of other medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
People with untreated sleep apnea do not experience refreshing sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to other problems including difficulty concentrating, depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory impairment, and falling asleep in inappropriate situations such as at work, on the phone, or driving. Left untreated, sleep apnea can also lead to other medical problems such as high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, or sudden death.
Although we all experience a dip in alertness in the early afternoon hours, routinely struggling to stay awake during the day is not normal. There are many reasons for daytime sleepiness, and the sleep specialists at Capital Health's Center for Sleep Medicine can help identify and treat the cause in each individual case. Sleep evaluation begins with a thorough history and sleep diary, and includes sleep testing when necessary.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs in all age groups and both sexes, but there are a number of factors that increase risk, including having a small upper airway (or large tongue, tonsils or uvula), being overweight, having a recessed chin, small jaw or a large overbite, a large neck size (17 inches or greater in a man, or 16 inches or greater in a woman), smoking and alcohol use, being age 40 or older, and ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific-Islanders and Hispanics). Also, sleep apnea seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic basis.
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