As we enter 2017, many of us are going to make their New Year’s resolutions- like going to the gym, losing weight, taking better care in general. Well, why not go a step further and help yourself reduce the chance of more serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes? What I am talking about is that if you snore, do not sleep well, wake up a lot at night, then you may have a dangerous condition called sleep apnea. As it turns out, many people these days suffer from this problem and don’t even know it!

One of the best ways to figure out if you have any sleep issues is to ask your spouse, your parents, or anyone in the house who might be able to hear you at night. Generally, when we ask a patient if they snore or wake up a lot, they really don’t know for sure. It is more often the husband, the wife, or the parent of the child who really knows what is going on. Another interesting way to follow your sleep patterns is to use a special ‘App’ on your phone that can record snoring and track restlessness. The fit bit can also track your sleep patterns as well- it tracks motion so if you are a restless sleeper, this may be an indicator that you might want to be checked more thoroughly.

If there are any signs that sleep is not going well, you should talking to your physician and maybe a sleep study would be indicated. This is a relatively simple procedure where you show up at a sleep center- the one that we use looks like the Ritz Carlton as you walk through the doors! Once there, you will get your pajamas on and the crew will put wires all over you to track the electric signals while you sleep. You will sleep in a king sized bed, have a private bathroom, and there is a big screen TV to watch your favorite shows while you relax- not bad!

In the event that your doctor discovers an apnea problem, you may need to wear a CPAP to help you get air in your lungs. But another issue with apnea may be that the jaw joints- the TMJ’s- are out of place. It is not a well understood field, and more research certainly needs to be done, but as it turns out, most sleep apnea sufferers have an underlying jaw joint problem- i.e. the discs are slipped out of place in the joints. The slipped discs cause an inherent irritation to the muscular system which in turn may cause tension in a person’s throat and this can close down the airway.

One of the best treatments to actually fix apnea has been through the amazing ALF appliance. It actually opens the airway and improves nasal breathing which is healthier than mouth breathing. So for better health this year, learn more about your sleep!