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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night. The Cleveland Clinic estimates 25 percent of men and almost 10 percent of women have sleep apnea. Children, especially obese children, can also develop sleep apnea, although they often have different symptoms than adults. Unfortunately, many individuals who have the sleep disorder don’t know it. Some common symptoms, like loud snoring or gasping for air, are not noticeable to the person experiencing them as they are asleep.

Are There Different Types of Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the type most people have, and OSA is what most people mean when they say they have the disorder. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax and block or partially lock the flow of air through your windpipe. You partially wake and gasp for air, disrupting your sleep. This can happen anywhere between ten to 30 times per hour, leaving you without the restful sleep your body needs to function properly. Most people that develop obstructive sleep apnea have a variety of risk factors, but it’s important to note that anyone can develop this disorder. If you think you may have sleep apnea, be sure to contact your dentist as soon as possible for effective treatment.

Central sleep apnea is a neurological problem which affects less than 20 percent of people with sleep apnea. People with CSA can physically breathe, but their brain neglects to tell them to do so. This may occur after an injury or trauma.

Mixed sleep apnea is a rare combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. It’s often diagnosed when continuous airway pressure fails to treat OSA or the obstruction is removed and the sleep apnea remains.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Individuals that develop sleep apnea most likely have one or more of the risk factors below; however, anyone can develop the disorder, which is why it’s important to understand the risk factors and symptoms. Risk factors for OSA include:

  • Physical characteristics, such as enlarged tonsils, a small airway or a large tongue
  • Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA than individuals who do not smoke, primary because smoking retains fluid in the upper airway and increases inflammation.
  • Men are much more likely to develop OSA, although once women go through menopause, their risk increases as well.
  • Sedatives or certain medication can prevent the throat muscles from remaining stiff while a person sleeps.
  • Being overweight or obese.

What Are 10 Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of OSA include:

  1. Loud snoring: Often with sleep apnea, mild and loud snoring is common. However, it’s important to keep in mind that loud snoring is not a definite sign of sleep apnea, but most sufferers do snore loudly with frequent pauses in breathing.
  2. Periods of breathlessness which is often characterized as periods during sleep when breathing completely stops, usually noticed by another person, not the sleeper.
  3. Tiredness is an all too common symptom of sleep apnea. Excessive daytime tiredness occurs when you feel you should have had enough sleep but still feel excessively tired. This is the result of fragmented sleep cycles.
  4. A decreased sex drive is also common with OSA as testosterone levels drop. This hormone is responsible for the sex drive in both men and women.
  5. Irritability and changes in mood are easy to spot. This happens when the chemicals that regulate emotions are out of synch. Sleep apnea can actually cause structural changes in the brain.
  6. Trouble concentrating from a lack of sleep.
  7. High blood pressure is both caused and exacerbated by sleep apnea. This could be due to the frequent dips in oxygen you experience with sleep apnea or because of chemical changes.
  8. Morning headaches can occur when your brain does not get enough oxygen during the night, leaving you with a nasty headache in the morning.
  9. Sore throat upon waking is caused when you breathe with your mouth open because you can’t breathe through your nose properly.
  10. Making choking or gasping noises in your sleep. This is something only a partner or family member may notice.

What Will Happen If You Don’t Get Treatment for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep is important in our lives as it allows our body to rest and recover. If you wake up frequently during the night, poor sleep quality can lead to chronic fatigue and a wide array of health problems. Recent research has also linked OSA to depression. Unmanaged sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. When you pause breathing during the night, your blood pressure increases and your heart rate increases when your body wakes you up to breathe. The daytime sleepiness can also increase a person’s chance of having a vehicle accident or an accident at work.

How Can Dentists Treat Sleep Apnea?

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea after a sleep study, you’ll have several treatment options. If you’re diagnosed with mild OSA, which is when you stop breathing for five to 15 times per hour, you can make simple lifestyle changes, like losing weight or changing your sleeping position, to see if these tactics help you sleep better.

CPAP therapy is widely used for moderate to severe OSA, where you have 15 or more apnea incidents per hour. A CPAP machine provides continuous positive airway pressure to keep your airway open. You wear a mask connected by a hose to the machine. There are several types of machines available, but some people find the mask uncomfortable or the machine is too noisy.

Where to Get Help for Your Sleep Apnea

If you have a moderate or severe sleep apnea diagnosis, you have options for treatment. One of our skilled dentists can fit you with a custom oral appliance that can keep your airway open at night. You will get a better night’s sleep with treatment and find you have more energy during the day. Please call us for an appointment today to get started on better overall health and an improved quality of life.

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(321) 252-0825

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