snoringDo you have trouble getting a full night of sleep? Does it take you hours each night to fall asleep? If so, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation, which affects approximately 20 million Americans who get less than six hours of sleep each night.

Sleep deprivation is often ignored for many individuals, but can have a harmful effect on their health and lead to heart disease, obesity, and even memory loss. Studies show that the adult brain needs an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night to ensure a strong immune system and a longer lifespan.

What are the most common sleep deprivation symptoms?

For those who are sleep deprived, difficulty concentrating and handling stress are commonly experienced, especially in the workplace. The thought process can take longer. Impaired vision, difficulty making decisions, and mood swings or personality changes that are out of character for the individual are also common sleep deprivation symptoms.

What causes sleep deprivation?

One of the most common causes of sleep deprivation is sleep apnea.  People who have sleep apnea have abnormal breathing patterns due to relaxed throat muscles. Known as obtrusive sleep apnea, when your your throat muscles become too relaxed, your breathing actually stops, sometimes hundreds of times each night.  These brief but constant awakenings rob you of the deep sleep stage you need to rest properly. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to send signals to your body to breathe while you are asleep. Either  type of sleep apnea can result in excessive, loud snoring that can also cause you to wake up.

Most often experienced by middle aged men, obesity, having a large tongue, or suffering from allergies can also contribute to the disorder.

Are you looking for a solution?

Sleep deprivation that is caused by obstructive sleep apnea or snoring can be treated with a number of methods. Your best bet is to visit a dentist in Los Gatos for an evaluation. Dental professionals trained in sleep disorder dentistry can outfit you with a dental orthotic that will open and expand your airway while you sleep. A CPAP  (continuous positive air pressure) mask can also be used, which pushes air into your airway via a tube while your sleep. Weight loss, avoiding alcohol, and using over-the-counter products for congestion can also work to relieve sleep apnea.

Learn more

It’s often difficult to know if your sleep deprivation is caused by sleep apnea because it occurs while you are sleeping. Unless you have a bed partner that complains about your snoring or notices your irregular breathing while you sleep, sleep apnea can easily go undetected.  A simple way to start an investigation into your sleep problems is to keep a sleep journal.