Sleep apnea is a common condition in which the mouth opens widely during sleep, causing a temporary blockage of air. A person undergoing a sleep apnea event will appear to be gagging. This causes a temporary decline in available oxygen. People with moderate to severe sleep apnea may have dozens to hundreds of such apnea events each night. This condition, which is also found in many patients with high levels of snoring, can be diagnosed in a sleep clinic. There are also home tests that use a finger-mounted electronic probe to monitor blood oxygen levels. Most people who suffer from sleep apnea are unaware of the problem. Sleep apnea results in increased blood pressure and inflammation, so it accelerates the formation of vulnerable plaque and is a risk factor for heart disease.

Excess body weight contributes to sleep apnea, so achieving optimal weight is one approach to reducing sleep apnea. One popular treatment is to use a device called CPAP (Continuous Pulmonary Airway pressure). The patient wears a mask connected to a device, which maintains positive airway pressure, reducing sleep apnea events. Most sleep-apnea patients find this cumbersome device intrusive, although people who suffer from severe sleep apnea find that it is worth it to be able to sleep well.

Another option is a custom dental appliance that prevents the air passageway from closing. One organization in Massachusetts that can conduct sleep apnea evaluations, prescribe CPAP or a sleep apnea dental appliance is Sleep Health Center.