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The 10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects more than 22 million Americans, and those statistics reflect only the moderate cases, not those that are complex. If not treated, sleep apnea can cause severe health problems up to and including sudden death. It can also exacerbate existing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. This condition is best addressed as soon as possible to prevent complications, so contact your dentist today if you think you have sleep apnea.

Are There Different Types of Sleep Apnea?

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, which occurs most frequently.
  2. Central sleep apnea, or CSA, which usually occurs due to illness or damage to the medulla oblongata, which is the lower part of the brain stem and controls autonomic functions, such as respiration and some reflexes.
  3. Complex sleep apnea, also called mixed sleep apnea, which has the symptoms of both OSA and CSA. The mechanics of complex sleep apnea aren’t fully understood, but it usually begins as the result of a physical blockage and then continues after the blockage has been eliminated.

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

Although sleep apnea can occur to anyone at any age, there are risk factors that will increase the likelihood of an individual developing it. Personal traits and lifestyle habits can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, such as:

  • Chronic nasal congestion, which can impede the free flow of air through the trachea
  • Gender; males are more prone to develop sleep apnea
  • Hypertension
  • Overweight or obese individuals
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Smoking
  • Preexisting conditions such as asthma, adenoids, and unusually restricted airways

How Do I Recognize the 10 Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

If you have sleep apnea, then you may notice any or all of the following signs and symptoms:

  1. Daytime drowsiness: Even if you slept long enough the previous night, you probably had many breathing lapses, so you didn’t get enough restorative REM sleep.
  2. Snoring: Although snoring can be annoying, it can be a symptom of a more severe condition, such as sleep apnea. Snoring occurs because the air is being forced past a blocked airway, so the tissues and muscles in the trachea move back and forth, which causes snoring.
  3. Choking or gasping: When your brain realizes that your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, it will wake you up so that you’ll resume breathing. You may not remember waking up or realize what woke you.
  4. Dry mouth and a scratchy throat: Mouth-breathing during the night will cause you to have a dry mouth and a scratchy throat in the morning.
  5. Breathing pauses: Although you may not be aware that your breathing stops during the night, your sleep partner might be able to confirm the fact.
  6. Morning headaches: If you habitually wake with a headache in the morning and can’t reconcile it with other causes, then it may be due to sleep apnea.
  7. Decreased libido: If your sex drive has waned, it can be due to a drop in testosterone levels that’s been clinically linked to sleep apnea.
  8. Mood changes: If you notice an increase in moodiness that’s not attributable to other causes, it may be due to sleep apnea. Research has linked it to changes in the brain chemistry that regulates your emotions, and if you’re constantly fatigued, you’re more inclined to be cranky.
  9. High blood pressure: The same chemicals that help regulate your emotions are also involved in maintaining your blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension and then develop sleep apnea, then you should consult your dentist without delay.
  10. Lack of mental acuity: When you don’t get enough REM sleep during the night, your brain will be fuzzy in the morning, and you’ll have difficulty concentrating.

Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

At its onset, sleep apnea isn’t inherently life-threatening. However, when it’s left untreated, it can exacerbate preexisting conditions such as hypertension and Type 2 diabetes and cause severe complications. When it continues to be untreated, people can begin to exhibit signs of sleep deprivation, which is a serious condition. Those who are habitually sleep-deprived will function as though they are inebriated, so their reaction times and judgments will be impaired accordingly. This is particularly dangerous for those who drive or operate machinery or equipment.

Another side effect of sleep apnea is a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood, which is dangerous. Research has indicated that as many as 19 percent of people with sleep apnea will succumb to its effects, whether directly or indirectly, so it’s imperative to seek treatment if you have sleep apnea.

Who Can Treat My Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea treatment is as close as your local dentist, since sleep apnea treatment is part of a dentist’s educational curriculum. In order to receive treatment, you must be diagnosed through a sleep study, which can be done at home or in a clinical setting. This will help determine whether your sleep disruption is caused by sleep apnea or another issue. If sleep apnea is the culprit, then your dentist will discuss your treatment options, both of which involve machines.

One treatment option is a CPAP machine, which is a machine that forces air through a mask, so you have continuous airflow even when you pause breathing. The other treatment option is OAT therapy, which is similar to a CPAP machine, but the mask is much smaller. An OAT therapy mask looks more like a sports mouth guard, and it’s more popular because it’s much smaller. Your dentist will recommend the best treatment option for your unique needs.

Where Can I Get Help for Sleep Apnea?

If you’re tired of being exhausted and cranky, then give your dentist a call. Sleep apnea can develop into a serious health problem if it’s not treated, so don’t let your sleep apnea escalate. Call Smiles at Fairfax Corner at (703) 997-0928 today to schedule an appointment for a sleep apnea treatment. You’ll receive a comprehensive oral exam, and we’ll do our utmost to help you resolve your sleep issues so that you can resume your abundant and active lifestyle. Call us today. You’ll be glad you did.

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