There has been a lot of discussion lately about the health effects of sleep apnea. Studies have shown sleep apnea can lead to serious medical conditions including, high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, stroke and type-2 diabetes.

Sleep apnea can also be attributed to serious auto accidents resulting from sleep deprivation and drowsy driving.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing, and as many as 20-30 times per hour while you sleep. If you suffer from sleep apnea, each time your breathing stops, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain and temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day.

Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness and may be a factor in many traffic accidents and highway fatalities.

On January 30, 2004, Alex Trebek, host of the popular game show Jeopardy, fell asleep at the wheel of his pickup truck and it drifted toward the road’s right edge, sideswiped a group of mailboxes and crossed a driveway. The pickup truck went airborne for about 40 feet before landing in a wide culvert and coming to rest against the pole. Fortunately, Trebek was not injured in the accident. His story is not unique.

According to the US Department of Transportation, there are approximately 200,000 car accidents each year that are caused by sleepy drivers.

Interesting Facts About Drowsy Drivers

The National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll found that 60% of adult drivers, about 168 million people, say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year, and more than one-third, 37% or 103 million people, have actually fallen asleep at the wheel! In fact, of those who have nodded off, 13% say they have done so at least once a month. Four percent, approximately eleven million drivers, admit they have had an accident or near accident because they dozed off or were too tired to drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.  These statistics demonstrate the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, there are millions of Americans who suffer from sleep apnea and are not getting the rest they need to feel awake and alert behind the wheel. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, have become a significant health issue in the United States. It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Here are some common signs that you or someone you know may have sleep apnea

  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Loud snoring at night
  • Waking up at night short of breath
  • Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
  • Headaches upon waking in the morning
  • Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
  • Extreme drowsiness throughout the day

If you have experienced any of these symptoms you may have sleep apnea. The good news is that sleep expert orthodontist Dr. Audrey Yoon has many treatment options for sleep apnea so that you can get the restful sleep you need to feel energized during the day. If you would like more information about sleep apnea, please call Dr. Audrey Yoon at The Brace Place & Kids Dentistry at (562) 804-1468.