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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, a condition that causes people to experience repeated episodes in which they stop breathing while sleeping, is very common. In fact, it’s been estimated that as many as 22 million people have sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Discover the most common signs of sleep apnea and learn how treatment can relieve your symptoms.

Are There Different Types of Sleep Apnea?

There are three different types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the soft tissues in the back of the mouth are overly relaxed, obstructing the airway and blocking the normal passage of air. OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea (CSA) causes you to frequently stop breathing while you’re sleeping because the brain doesn’t send the proper signals to tell your body to breathe. This is different from OSA since the airway isn’t blocked by relaxed throat muscles. CSA is much less common compared to OSA and is caused by medical conditions or accidents that affect the brainstem.

If you have a combination of OSA and CSA, you might have mixed sleep apnea. Mixed sleep apnea is what results when you fix the problem causing OSA, but the sleep apnea still remains. Dentists are still learning more about this type of sleep apnea. If you think you may have any of the above types of sleep apnea, contact your local dentist today.

What Are the Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

Children and adults can develop sleep apnea since the condition can occur at any age. Certain medical conditions, lifestyle choices, and physical attributes can greatly increase your risk. The characteristics or behaviors that greatly increase your risk include:

  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Alcohol consumption
  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Large neck circumference
  • Smoking
  • Naturally narrow airways
  • Men are up to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea, although the risk for women increases after menopause.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The type of sleep apnea you have will influence the specific symptoms you experience. Each person can have different symptoms, but it’s common for you to experience some or all of these symptoms.

  • Snoring: Many people with sleep apnea experience snoring. It happens when the surrounding tissues in the back of your throat vibrate as air struggles to flow past a partially blocked airway.
  • Feeling sleepy during the day: As you frequently wake up during the night during repeated episodes of pauses in breathing, your REM sleep is affected. This can make you feel sleepy during the day.
  • Morning headaches: Lack of proper sleep and low oxygen levels can cause you to wake up with a headache.
  • Problems concentrating: Inadequate sleep can affect your ability to focus and concentrate throughout the day.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is also a risk factor for sleep apnea, but it can also be a symptom since a reduction in blood oxygen levels can increase blood pressure.
  • Episodes of breathlessness during sleep: Your loved ones or partner may witness repeated episodes of pauses in your breathing while sleeping.
  • Mood changes: When left untreated, sleep apnea can affect certain chemicals within the brain that regulate emotions. This is the reason why some people with sleep apnea feel irritable during the day.
  • Gasping or choking yourself awake: If you have sleep apnea, it’s common to wake up throughout the night choking or gasping. This occurs once the brain senses that you’re not receiving enough oxygen and forces you to wake up.
  • Decreased libido: Untreated sleep apnea can reduce how much testosterone your body produces, which may affect your sex drive.
  • Dry mouth or sore throat: If sleep apnea causes you to sleep with your mouth open, it’s common to wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat.

The Effects of Untreated Sleep Apnea

One of the main concerns of untreated sleep apnea is the lack of oxygen to your brain and body. Low levels of blood oxygen can cause a buildup of carbon dioxide in the body, which can quickly become a dangerous situation. Hundreds of interruptions in breathing that cause you to briefly wake up throughout the night can lead to sleep deprivation.

Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that there’s an increased risk of workplace accidents and car accidents in people who leave sleep apnea untreated. Prolonged lack of sleep can negatively affect work and school performance. Untreated sleep apnea can also affect the sleep quality of your partner and loved ones since loud snoring can interrupt their sleep.

Your risk of many serious health problems also increases if you delay treatment for sleep apnea. These include type 2 diabetes, liver problems, stroke, heart attack, and depression.

How Can a Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?

Dentists are trained to aid in the treatment and management of sleep apnea. The first step towards treatment is talking with your dentist or doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing. A sleep study is usually required to make a diagnosis. This can be performed in your own home or at a certified sleep clinic. If a sleep apnea diagnosis is made, your doctor will carefully explain the treatment options you have.

For many people with obstructive sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a common and effective treatment. This treatment method involves a machine that delivers a steady flow of oxygen into your mouth and nose through a facemask. This keeps your airway open and prevents interruptions in breathing while you’re sleeping.

An oral appliance is a treatment option if you have mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. This device looks like a mouth guard and is worn while you’re sleeping. An oral appliance works by preventing breathing interruptions by maintaining an open airway. Your oral appliance is custom-fit by your dentist so it fits the exact shape of your mouth.

A great night’s sleep can help you feel energetic throughout the day, so you can tackle every aspect of your busy day. Our dentists can help you stop snoring and improve your breathing so you can get the sleep you need. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation for an oral appliance.

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