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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These episodes usually last 10 seconds or more and occur repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea will partially awaken as they struggle to breathe, but in the morning they will not be aware of the disturbances in their sleep. According to recent research by the American Sleep Apnea Associate, 22 million adults in the U.S. have OSA, a rate than is increasing substantially over the last two decades because of the obesity epidemic.

What Are the Three Types of Sleep Apnea?

With obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the airway closes or partially closes while you sleep. Your throat muscles relax and the tongue or soft tissues in your throat restrict the airflow. Your body signals your brain to wake up momentarily and gasp for air. You return to sleeping, often without remembering the event. This can happen five to 14 times an hour with mild OSA, 15 to 30 times an hour with moderate OSA and 30 or more times an hour with severe OSA.

Central sleep apnea is a problem with the central nervous system where the brain fails to tell your respiratory muscles to breathe. It’s normally caused by an underling health condition. Less than one percent of people over age 40 have central sleep apnea according to the Sleep Foundation. People with heart conditions are more likely to develop CSA.

Complex sleep apnea is a mixture of the other two types of sleep apnea. People have the symptoms of both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Diagnosing the disorder is fairly new.

What Puts an Individual at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

Being overweight is one of the main risk factors for developing OSA. According to researchers, a high percentage of the individuals who have OSA are overweight or obese. People who are obese are many times more likely to develop OSA. Losing weight can help reduce the severity of the sleep disorder, but it’s often difficult for people with chronic tiredness to exercise and not reach for sugar or carbs for quick energy. Obese individuals who have bariatric surgery may also see a decrease in OSA symptoms, but this is something you’ll need to discuss with your doctor.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being male – males are typically 3X more likely to develop OSA than females, but postmenopausal women are also at highh risk.
  • Being over 40 – older adults are much more likely than younger adults.
  • Having large tonsils or a narrow airway.
  • A family history of sleep apnea.
  • Smoking – smoking increases inflammation in the upper airway.
  • Using sedatives or alcohol which relax throat muscles.
  • Having a large neck size (16 to 17 inches or more) as a thick neck often indicates a narrow airway.

What Are the 10 Most Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

  1. Waking up gasping or choking, although you may not remember the incident.
  2. Loud snoring. There are people who snore and don’t have sleep apnea, but most OSA sufferers snore quite loudly.
  3. High blood pressure.
  4. Waking up with a dry mouth.
  5. Morning headaches.
  6. Episodes of breathlessness during the night.
  7. Difficulty concentrating or memory problems.
  8. Feeling sleepy during the day after a full night’s sleep.
  9. Decreased libido or sex drive.
  10. Mood swings or irritability.

What Will Happen If I Leave My Sleep Apnea Untreated?

Sleep apnea will take a toll on your body if it isn’t managed. Every time you stop breathing, your heart rate and blood pressure increase temporarily. Untreated OSA puts you at a higher risk for having a stroke, high blood pressure or a heart attack. OSA can also lead to chronic inflammation, which can harm your pancreas and lead to type II diabetes. Being chronically sleepy is also dangerous. If you become groggy when driving or while operating heavy machinery, you could harm yourself or someone else.

Untreated OSA can cause loud snoring. If you normally have a bed partner, this person could lose sleep every night until they are forced to move to another room. The most common reason husbands and wives sleep in separate bedrooms is snoring.

How Do Dentists Treat Sleep Apnea?

If you have symptoms which suggest sleep apnea, you’ll be referred for a sleep study. This will determine if you have sleep apnea and if you do, its severity. You can treat mild OSA with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or sleeping in a different position.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy uses a machine to provide a steady stream of air through a hose to a mask which covers your nose and/or mouth. The air keeps your airway open. There are machines which can auto adjust the airflow pressure and bilevel pressure machines. CPAP machines work well, but sometimes people don’t like wearing the mask or they find the machine noisy so they don’t always use it.

Oral appliances fitted by a dentist are also an effective treatment option. They resemble sports mouth guards are they are made-to-order, so they fit comfortably. The most popular type of appliance eases the lower jaw forward to keep the airway open. There are also tongue retaining devices to keep your tongue from falling back and blocking your airway. Patients often find oral appliances are easier to use than CPAP machines, so they are more likely to use them and receive the benefit of breathing easy throughout the night.

You can buy less expensive off-the-shelf oral appliances for sleep apnea. We encourage our patients to choose a custom-made appliance supplied by a dental professional. They will fit better, so you’ll be more likely to wear the appliance and reap the benefits of OSA oral appliance therapy safely. Wouldn’t you want a dental professional to supply an oral appliance to adjust your jaw position, instead buying one in an online marketplace and hoping it is safe.

Where Can I Get a Dental Appliance for Sleep Apnea?

Please contact us today if you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and are interested in a made-to-order oral appliance. Our skilled team can help you get better, more restful sleep. Make your appointment today and learn more about our affordable options.

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