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Sleep apnea and athletes – Is there a link?

Posted on May 8th, 2019

Besides training, physical conditioning, and conscious eating, sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results. Obstructive sleep apnea affects as many as 22 million Americans. And this includes adults as well as kids. And while risk factors such as smoking or having a family history can increase the odds, the latest research links increased risk for athletes and sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea doesn’t only affect the quality of sleep by leaving sufferers fatigued and sleep-deprived. Studies have also shown that it can affect athletic performance on the court or field. According to one study, sleep apnea lowered reaction time in players by as much as 11 percent.

What’s the link between sleep apnea and healthy athletes?

Athletes may be in peak physical condition. But having a “thick” neck is one of the risk factors for sleep apnea, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. That’s because all the extra tissue (muscle or fat) on the neck can make it harder for the airway to stay open when the body is sleeping.

Genetics play a role as well

Many athletes are affected. Upon his retirement from the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal announced that he had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Death can also be a consequence. Sleep apnea was listed as a cause of the death of Reggie White, a former NFL defensive end.

A somnologist (sleep doctor) can diagnose and develop a plan to treat obstructive sleep apnea, making sure you can get a good night’s sleep and stay healthy. While a CPAP is the “gold standard” for the treatment of sleep apnea, the sad reality is that almost 75% of those folks are unable to tolerate CPAP treatment. (This is how your Houston dentist Dr. Meghna Dassani can help.)

Dassani Dentistry can fit adults living with sleep apnea with an oral appliance that can help keep the airway open during sleep. In pediatric sleep apnea patients, treatment with oral appliances can help grow the airway.

Whether you’re at the top of your game or in the game for the fun of it, getting the proper amount and quality of sleep is necessary for healthy living. Good sleep will help you on the road to good fitness, good eating, and good health.

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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Healthy Sleep Revolution Podcast Cover

Healthy Sleep Revolution Podcast

Snoring? Tired all day? Trouble focusing?
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