SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Dr. Barbara Bumberry from Mercy Hospital visited the Daybreak show this morning to talk about the dangers of sleep apnea and what people should do to combat them.

Obstructive sleep apnea involves the relaxing of the airways when someone is sleeping. This causes the airways to close in, causing difficulty with breathing during sleep and sometimes stopping breathing altogether. This can happen multiple times throughout the night.

Sleep apnea can cause snoring, chronic fatigue, and impaired cognitive function. Eventually, sleep apnea can even lead to heart problems that raise the risk for heart attacks and strokes.

This condition not only affects people’s sleep. It also affects their waking hours.

The demographics that are most susceptible to suffering from sleep apnea are older men, especially those who are obese, use alcohol and use tobacco. Up to 17% of the people in the country are affected by sleep apnea, Bumberry said.

If people want to know if they have sleep apnea, they should sign up for a sleep test, Bumberry said. This involves a medical professional measuring quality of sleep and looking for signs of conditions such as sleep apnea.

Bumberry said that the typical treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP machines, which fit over the mouth to expand airways during sleep. However, CPAP machines can be unwieldy, uncomfortable for sleep partners, and concerning for people with claustrophobia.

A new surgery that removes the uvula and part of the tonsils was used for a time, but they don’t really use it anymore, Bumberry said that doctors are instead leaning toward new solutions such as the Inspire device, which places an implant in the sufferer. This implant senses when airways are closing and stimulates the tongue to reopen the passage.