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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleep problem that often goes undiagnosed and untreated. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that at least 22 million Americans have sleep apnea. Even though there are easy treatment options available as close as your local dentist’s office, many people don’t get treatment because they don’t know why they feel so tired every day. Many symptoms happen when people are asleep, so unless they have someone to tell them there are pauses in their breathing, they remain unaware. They also may not relate other symptoms, like irritability and excessive tiredness with sleep apnea.

What Is the Most Common Type of Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea. It occurs when the airway is partially or fully blocked, typically by the throat muscles which become too relaxed. The muscles support the soft palate, tongue, tonsils and throat walls. When the tissues collapse, it can stop a person’s breathing for 10 seconds or more multiple times every hour. The instances of breathing cessation are called apnea events. If you have between five and 15 apnea events per hour, you have mild OSA. Between 15 and 30 events per hour is moderate OSA and over 30 events per hour is severe OSA.

Central sleep apnea (CSA), on the other hand, does not occur because of an airway blockage; it is a failure of the body’s respiratory control center. The brain isn’t telling the body to breathe. CSA isn’t nearly as common as OSA. It’s usually caused by cervical spine or brainstem problems or narcotic painkillers.

Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two types of sleep apnea. It’s often diagnosed after symptoms persist treatment for OSA.

Why Do Some People Get Sleep Apnea and Not Others?

Any individual can have sleep apnea, but there are certain factors that put certain people at greater risk for developing the condition. Risk factors for contracting OSA include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being male – OSA is 4X more common in men, but women are at a higher risk after menopause and during pregnancies
  • Being over age 50
  • Having enlarged tonsils
  • A thick neck

While there are many factors which can contribute to OSA, OSA is most common in obese individuals. At least 60 percent of diagnosed OSA patients are overweight. When you have excess weight or are obese, you can develop fatty deposits in your neck that make your airway narrower. Having a large waistline can diminish lung capacity. Decreased lung volume may make a person’s airway more likely to collapse.

What Are 10 Signs of Sleep Apnea?

Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  1. Daytime fatigue which occurs even after getting plenty of sleep.
  2. An inability to concentrate, even after a full nights rest.
  3. Loud snoring is often a key indicator of sleep apena; however, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
  4. Waking up gasping for air or making chocking noises.
  5. A dry mouth upon waking usually caused from sleeping with your mouth open.
  6. A decreased sex drive. When a man or woman does not get enough restful sleep, they can’t produce enough testosterone, the hormone responsible for libido, among other things.
  7. Mood swings caused by lack of proper sleep. When you’re tired all day, your mood can shift rapidly.
  8. Memory problems.
  9. Morning headaches.
  10. High blood pressure.

What If I Don’t Manage My Sleep Apnea?

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can be both uncomfortable and dangerous. Feeling tired all day and not having the energy to do the things you want to do isn’t fun. You could fall asleep while driving and injure yourself or others on the road. When your body wakes you up at night to breathe, it increases your blood pressure and heart rate, straining your cardiovascular system and increasing your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Untreated OSA can also affect your relationship with your partner. He or she may be sleep deprived from your snoring or the choking noises you make in your sleep. It’s not uncommon for someone who lives with someone exhibiting signs of untreated OSA, such as loud snoring, to move to another room to get a good night’s sleep.

How Can a Dentist Help With Sleep Apnea Treatment?

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, you can undergo a sleep study to receive a definite diagnosis. You can often treat mild OSA with lifestyle changes, but moderate or severe cases require specific treatment to lower your risk of serious health consequences. Lifestyle changes may include quitting smoking, losing weight and avoiding sleeping on your back.

Some time ago, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine used to be the only treatment available aside from surgery and it’s still widely used. It provides a constant flow of air pressure through a mask you wear while sleeping. Typically, the mask goes over your nose and mouth, but there are ones which fits over your nose only.

An oral appliance is another treatment option that some people find more comfortable to use. You have to have a dentist fit you with a custom device, so it gently pushes your lower jaw forward and keeps your airway open. The appliance resembles an orthodontic retainer or sports mouth guard. Oral appliances have several advantages over CPAP machines, so individuals tend to use them every night. CPAP machines are easily portable as well.

While it’s possible to buy a cheap oral appliance online to treat OSA, dentists don’t recommend it. If you’re using an oral appliance to move your lower jaw, it should be custom made and adjusted by a dental professional to avoid discomfort and potential problems with your temporomandibular joints (TMJ).

Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea

Your sleep quality has a considerable impact on your quality of life and overall health. If you have sleep apnea, or suspect you may, please call our office to see one of our experienced dentists for an evaluation. He or she may refer you for a sleep study or fit you with an oral appliance if you have a diagnosis already. We can help you get the good night’s sleep you deserve. It can give you the energy to get through your day more easily.

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