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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to frequently stop breathing during their sleep. It’s not uncommon for someone with sleep apnea to experience hundreds of brief episodes each night in which their breathing is interrupted. Apnea is the term used to refer to when breathing temporarily stops. Learn more about the ten most common signs of sleep apnea and how your dentist can help you manage your symptoms.

Types of Sleep Apnea Explained

Doctors have identified three types of sleep apnea, although only one is the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type and usually affects more men than women. It results from a partial or complete blockage of your airway while you’re sleeping, which restricts the flow of air.

Central sleep apnea (CSA) happens when the brain temporarily fails to send the proper signals that tell your body to breathe. Compared to OSA, CSA can be thought of as a communication problem between the brain and body. CSA affects fewer people than OSA and can be caused by taking narcotics or a medical problem that affects the brainstem.

Mixed sleep apnea occurs when your breathing interruptions during sleep are caused by a combination of CSA and OSA. However, it usually means you started with OSA, removed the physical blockage, but still have sleep apnea.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can develop at any age, although there is a greater risk after the age of 40. There are also numerous risk factors that make it more likely for you to have sleep apnea, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • High blood pressure
  • Being male
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Naturally narrow airways
  • Large neck circumference

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea

Since the signs and symptoms associated with OSA and CSA can overlap, it can be difficult to diagnose which type you have. Make an appointment with your dentist if you have any of these symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking: Many people with sleep apnea sleep with their mouths open as they frequently attempt to draw in enough air. This is why it’s common to wake up with a sore throat.
  • Morning headaches: A morning headache can happen for several reasons, but people with sleep apnea often have headaches in the morning due to lack of sleep and low levels of oxygen.
  • Daytime sleepiness: Since sleep apnea frequently disrupts your sleeping habits, it can affect REM sleep. This is the reason why you might feel tired during the day, even if you think you received a full night’s sleep.
  • Snoring: Snoring happens when the soft tissues found at the back of your throat vibrate as air flows past them.
  • Episodes of breathlessness during sleep: You might not be aware of it when it happens, but a partner or a loved one might witness your breath frequently pause while you sleep.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Your ability to focus and concentrate can suffer if you’re not getting enough sleep.
  • Mood changes: Experiencing mood changes, such as frequently feeling irritable, is common with sleep apnea. Research has revealed that chemicals in the brain responsible for controlling emotion can be affected in people with sleep apnea.
  • Gasping or choking yourself awake: After your brain registers that you’re not receiving enough oxygen, you might wake up choking or gasping for air.
  • High blood pressure: Reduced levels of blood oxygen can raise your blood pressure over time if sleep apnea isn’t treated.
  • Reduced sex drive: Your libido may be affected by a reduction in testosterone, which studies have linked to untreated sleep apnea.

What Are the Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea?

Untreated sleep apnea poses a number of significant health risks. An insufficient amount of oxygen can affect how the brain and body functions, which can lead to a deadly buildup of carbon dioxide in the body.

Even though you may not realize it, you’re actually waking up numerous times throughout the night if you have untreated sleep apnea. This can quickly lead to sleep deprivation, and may even increase your risk of experiencing a car accident or workplace accident, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re not getting enough sleep regularly, it can affect your ability to concentrate, work, and study effectively.

If your partner or loved ones frequently hear your loud snoring or repeated episodes of choking and gasping for air, their sleep quality can also be negatively affected. Lastly, untreated sleep apnea can greatly increase your risk of many dangerous health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and depression.

How Your Dentist Can Help

Many dentists receive training in sleep apnea management and treatment. During your appointment, you can talk to your dentist about the sleep apnea symptoms you’re experiencing, and your dentist will likely recommend a sleep study. Some sleep studies require an overnight stay at a sleep clinic while others can be performed at home. Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you if a sleep apnea diagnosis is made.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is one of the main treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. With this form of treatment, you’ll wear a mask during sleep as a steady stream of compressed air keeps your air passages open. In this way, a CPAP machine allows for normal breathing while you’re sleeping.

Many people with sleep apnea can also benefit from oral appliance therapy, especially if you have mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. This device is worn in your mouth while you’re sleeping, and it works by preventing the soft tissue in your airway from collapsing. An oral appliance for sleep apnea is custom-fitted by your dentist to help you sleep soundly.

As your trusted dentist, we want to help you improve your quality of life and ensure that you’re getting the sleep you need to be healthy. Call us today to schedule your consultation.

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(856) 335-1775