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Why Is Sleep Apnea on the Rise? The Surprising Answer

Posted by Hyungsup Lee Aug 24, 2022

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Each year, it seems like sleep apnea is mentioned more on the news and in casual conversations with friends and family. The surge in interest around this sleep disorder is not a coincidence! A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology confirmed that obstructive sleep apnea has grown much more prevalent over the last two decades. In fact, an estimated 22 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea today. Why is sleep apnea in Portland on the rise and what can you do about it? Keep reading to find out.  

Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

These are the biggest risk factors that contribute to sleep apnea.


Scientists believe that the rise in obesity rates is one of the primary reasons why sleep apnea is more common now than two decades ago. Fat accumulation around the neck can weigh down the upper airways. When your muscles relax during sleep, this added weight can collapse your airways. The good news is that losing weight can help fight obstructive sleep apnea. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and regular checkups with your doctor may help you lose weight and improve your sleep.


Studies show that smokers are three times more likely to have sleep apnea than nonsmokers. Smoking causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway, restricting the passage of air. Yet another compelling reason to quit smoking tobacco!

Alcohol Consumption

Enjoying a nightcap before bed may also increase your risk of sleep apnea. Alcohol is a depressant that can relax your throat and airways, affecting your ability to breathe. To avoid increasing your chances of sleep trouble, abstain from drinking alcohol for at least four hours before bedtime.  

Medical Conditions and Family History

Does your family have a history of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic lung disease? These and other certain medical conditions may place you at a higher risk of sleep apnea. Your jawbone shape and natural tongue placement – both genetically inherited traits – can also influence whether you experience sleep apnea in Portland. 

Treating Sleep Apnea

The healthy habits mentioned above, like quitting smoking, may help you avoid sleep apnea. However, some people need professional help to overcome their sleep disorders. In the past, this meant using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine pumps air through a facemask worn at night. While effective at maintaining airflow, many patients have trouble sleeping comfortably while using this device.

Fortunately, oral appliance therapy is now available! An oral appliance is a small custom-made mouthpiece that repositions the jaw to maintain airflow. Wearing an oral appliance from your dentist is a more comfortable and convenient way to treat sleep apnea.

If you know or suspect that you are affected by sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist if you could benefit from treatment.

About the Author

Dr. Russ Teasdale has over 40 years of experience helping patients achieve better rest. At his private practice in Portland, he offers both testing and custom-made appliances to detect and address sleep apnea. To learn more about risk factors for sleep apnea in Portland, visit the Advanced Dental Arts NW website or call 503-966-2528.

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