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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes those who have it to stop breathing while they are sleeping. This problem occurs in an estimated 22 million people in the United States. Ignoring sleep apnea can cause a number of significant health issues. Knowing the symptoms can help you recognize when it is time to seek out medical treatment. Here’s an introduction to what sleep apnea is and how your dentist may be able to assist in treating it.

Types of Sleep Apnea

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most commonly diagnosed type of sleep apnea. This happens when the airway becomes blocked by the throat muscles during sleep. The obstruction occurs because the muscles become overly relaxed. The muscles present in your chest then have to work harder to force air through the airway. This causes pauses between breaths. For most people, these pauses are only a few seconds. However, it is important to note that many sufferers of sleep apnea have these pauses approximately 30 times in an hour. Men are more likely to develop OSA than women.
  2. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is when the breathing stops due to the way that the brain functions. This usually happens due to some kind of neurological disorder or because of an injury to the lower brain stem.
  3. Mixed or complex sleep apnea is diagnosed when a patient has symptoms of both OSA and CSA. In typical cases, the patient initially has a physical blockage (OSA). Once the physical blockage has been addressed, the sleep apnea persists.

How Do I Know If I’m At Risk for Sleep Apnea?

Anyone can be diagnosed with sleep apnea at any time in his or her life. Children can even develop the problem. Some populations are more at risk of developing it due to their physical attributes, lifestyle choices and medical history.

  • People who are overweight tend to have excess fat around the upper airways that makes it more likely that they will develop OSA.
  • People who smoke are also at a higher risk of developing the disorder. This is because smoking weakens the muscles in the throat.
  • While chronic nasal congestion isn’t a cause of sleep apnea, it tends to show up at around the same time as the sleep disorder does. This is due to the fact that both issues involve impeded airways.
  • Individuals with high blood pressure are more likely to have sleep apnea, which can make high blood pressure even worse.
  • Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with OSA than women are.
  • However, risk levels for postmenopausal women are also rather high.
  • Medical conditions such as having naturally narrow airways, asthma and enlarged adenoids can also increase the risk of OSA.

What Are the Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

There are a number of common symptoms of sleep apnea. Most people who have it tend to develop the following symptoms:

1. Feeling excessively sleepy throughout the day
You may feel groggy and disoriented throughout the day without realizing that it’s because you have had your sleep cycle disrupted by sleep apnea throughout the night. Most people with sleep apnea don’t remember waking up during those brief breathing pauses.

2. Snoring
While snoring doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea, it is one of the most common symptoms of the disorder. If you snore due to sleep apnea, it is because the air is fighting to get through an obstructed airway, rattling and causing your muscles to move, leading to snoring.

3. Gasping or choking awake
When you fail to get the proper amount of oxygen, your brain will jolt your body into gasping for air. Some people don’t notice when this occurs, but other people startle themselves awake when doing so.

4. Episodes of breathlessness while sleeping
Your partner may have pointed out that you sometimes take a long pause between breaths when you are asleep. If this is the case, you may have sleep apnea.

5. Dry mouth and/or sore throat
Due to trying to take in enough air, most patients with sleep apnea sleep with their mouths wide open. This can cause you to wake up with a dry mouth or a sore throat.

6. Morning headaches
Both the lack of oxygen and the disruptions in sleep can cause sleep apnea sufferers to wake up with a headache.

7. Difficulty concentrating
Have you ever tried to go about your day after staying up too late? That feeling of sluggishness and the inability to focus are also experienced by sufferers of sleep apnea.

8. Decreased libido
Some studies have indicated that there is a link between sleep apnea and a drop in hormones such as testosterone. This can lead to a decreased sex drive.

9. Mood changes
Feeling exhausted makes many people feel cranky and irritable. Recent research has indicated that there also may be structural changes within the brains of patients with sleep apnea. In addition, studies have found that sleep apnea patients also have shifts in the amount of the chemicals in the brain that regulate emotions.

10. High blood pressure
The same chemicals in the brain that regulate emotions also assist in regulating physical functions like sweating and blood pressure. High blood pressure can be caused by sleep apnea. It can also be one of the causes of sleep apnea.

Why Is it Important to Seek Out Treatment for Sleep Apnea?

Those with sleep apnea can have pauses in their breathing that last 10 or more seconds. This leads to a depletion in blood oxygen levels, as well as to an accumulation of carbon dioxide within the body. The more often that these long pauses happen, the more likely it is that the body will suffer from more damage.

Sleep apnea makes it so that you can’t get a good night’s rest. Sleeping is an essential element of living a long and healthy life because it helps the body to rebuild and repair itself. Sleep deprivation can cause a number of long-term health problems. In addition, people who have high blood pressure, diabetes or other chronic diseases or disorders on top of sleep apnea are apt to have their symptoms grow worse.

What Can a Dentist Do to Treat Sleep Apnea?

In addition to learning how to diagnose and treat cavities and gum disease, dentists are also trained in treating OSA.

To be diagnosed with sleep apnea, you need to have a sleep study performed. This study can either be conducted at a clinic or within the comfort of your own home. This study will provide data that can help your medical team determine why you’ve been having sleepless nights. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will then be able to discuss treatment options.

A popular method of treating OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This therapy consists of wearing a face mask that is hooked up to a machine that provides you with oxygen while you sleep. This machine allows you to properly breathe while you sleep, while also minimizing the side effects of OSA.

Oral appliance therapy is another alternative for treatment. With this method, your dentist will fit you for a device, much like a mouthguard, that you will wear while you sleep. This device will assist in keeping your airways open. These devices are more portable and less cumbersome than CPAP machines.

Get Treated for Your Sleep Apnea

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