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Don’t Just Survive the Holidays:
The Key to a More Restful Night’s Sleep
While the holidays should be a time to celebrate with family and friends, they can often be stressful and exhausting, especially when you find yourself traveling, going to bed late, or having a house full of guests. If you are all too familiar with poor sleep and fatigue, that stress is only compounded.
Lisa, a hospital receptionist, had suffered from chronic fatigue, headaches and depression for years before she was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder affecting 18 million Americans. Lisa recalls never feeling rested or having energy no matter how much she slept. Over time, the fatigue took a toll on her professional and personal life; however, she notes, “it really hit me at Christmas when I was so tired I couldn’t stay up past 7 pm to spend time with my family.”
Unfortunately, Lisa’s story is common for those struggling with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a sleep disorder in which breathing is “briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. OSA involves complete obstruction of the airway, which can occur when the tongue and muscles relax during sleep, the lower jaw falls back toward the throat or the airway becomes blocked. These obstructions may cause a person to stop breathing and briefly awaken hundreds of times a night. Symptoms of OSA include chronic snoring, interrupted sleep, insomnia, headache, irritability, and excessive sleepiness during the day.
While these and other symptoms are stressful at any time of year, they can especially impact your health and well-being during the holiday season. Late night parties, the stress of family gatherings and sleeping in different beds, for example, could leave anyone more exhausted than usual. As a result, those suffering from OSA may find themselves too tired to enjoy evening festivities, falling asleep early and experiencing poor quality and quantity of sleep. After a fitful night’s sleep, many with OSA wake up with headaches, which is annoying on any day. However, having a morning headache can ruin special events such as Christmas morning.
Furthermore, when relatives are all sleeping under one roof, snoring can be a real issue. It is not only embarrassing to those suffering from OSA but also an interruption to those sleeping in the same room or house. A survey by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association found that 54% of people have had their holidays adversely affected by snoring. 20% of those snorers were even sent to the bathroom because of the excessive noise. Imagine trying to get a good night’s sleep on the bathroom floor!
Fatigue can also be a safety issue during the holidays as many people hit the roads to visit family and friends. Driving while sleep-impaired can be dangerous for those struggling with OSA and can negatively affect others on the road. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 100,000 accidents each year are caused by tired drivers. The majority of these accidents occur at night when the body is most fatigued
However, if you think you might have sleep apnea, you can go beyond simply surviving the holidays, at least where sleep is concerned. Consider speaking with your doctor about having a sleep study performed to determine whether or not you have OSA. The good news is that it is a treatable condition. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes, surgery, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Oral Appliance Therapy.
Oral Appliance Therapy is an excellent option for many struggling with OSA, especially those who have had limited success with CPAP. Lisa, who was unable to use CPAP due to a latex allergy, found great success with her oral appliance, which is similar to an athletic mouth guard but less bulky and completely non-invasive. The purpose of the appliance is to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep, preventing snoring and sleep apnea. Since getting her oral appliance, Lisa no longer experiences extreme fatigue, headaches or depression. She has been able to return to normal life and has energy to work and celebrate important events with her family and friends.
How to Sleep More Soundly during the Holidays:
- Try to be as consistent as possible with your sleep routine.
- If you are traveling, bring your own pillow and sleep necessities.
- Plan to get a good night’s sleep before you travel.
- Take frequent breaks to stretch and clear your head when driving.
- Never drive while sleepy. Try to share the driving responsibilities with someone else.
- Try to keep up good habits while traveling: drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods, exercise and spend time in fresh air.
- Treating obstructive sleep apnea with an oral sleep appliance can improve energy, decrease headaches, and stop snoring and sleep apnea.
For more information and to schedule an appointment with one of our sleep disorders dentists please click here. The Koala® Center for Sleep and TMJ Disorders provides treatment for snoring, sleep apnea, and TMJ Disorder with oral appliance therapy. We have multiple locations across the US.