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The Ten Most Common Signs of Sleep Apnea

More than 22 million Americans are afflicted with sleep apnea, which is a disorder that interrupts breathing when the individual is asleep. When left untreated, sleep apnea can cause several physical problems. However, if you know the signs and symptoms of the disorder, you’ll be able to seek treatment.

What Are the Types of Sleep Apnea?

There are several types of sleep apnea, and they can present differently, but the bottom line is that they all interrupt your sleep. They are as follows:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the most common and occurs when your upper airway is either fully or partially blocked. This occurs when your throat muscles are too relaxed, so your chest muscles must work harder to enable breathing. Although the pauses are usually very brief, cumulatively, they can total as many as 30 pauses in an hour. This is a serious disruption in your sleep and can inhibit the REM sleep that’s essential for the body to rejuvenate at night. OSA is more common in men than in women.
  • Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is usually the result of an illness, such as Parkinson’s disease, or trauma to the lower brain stem. CSA is characterized by a lack of respiration.
  • Complex sleep apnea, also called mixed sleep apnea, has the symptoms of both CSA and OSA. It usually starts as OSA, but the symptoms will continue even if the blockage is no longer present.

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

Although sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, some factors can exacerbate its onset. Lifestyles, medical conditions, and physical attributes can all contribute to the onset of sleep apnea. This includes conditions such as:

  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Being of the male gender
  • Medical conditions such as asthma, adenoids, narrow air passages
  • Smoking

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

You might not know you have sleep apnea unless someone tells you, which is why it’s important to look out for the following signs as well. These can be clear indicators that you might not be getting the restful sleep you need.

  1. Extreme lethargy: Sleep apnea will deprive you of the REM sleep that you need to rejuvenate your body. Even though you may not remember waking during the night, your body will suffer the consequences. You may feel lethargic and lack mental acuity but be unaware of the reason for it.
  2. Snoring: Although snoring is disruptive to both the person who snores and those around them, it can be an indicator of sleep apnea. Snoring sometimes occurs when there’s insufficient space in the airway for the body to breathe adequately.
  3. Choking or gasping: If you sometimes waken because you’re choking or gasping, you may have sleep apnea. This occurs because the brain realizes that it needs oxygen.
  4. Breathing cessation: You may periodically have long pauses between breaths, and that can be a sign of sleep apnea.
  5. Sore throat or dry mouth: Many times, those who have sleep apnea sleep with their mouths open, so they wake up with scratchy throats and a dry mouth.
  6. Morning headaches: Lack of sleep and low oxygen levels can cause morning headaches, which are a symptom of sleep apnea.
  7. Mental fog: Lack of sleep can cause a lack of mental acuity during the day, which is very common among sleep apnea patients.
  8. Decreased libido: Sleep apnea has been linked to lower testosterone levels, which can result in a decreased sex drive.
  9. Mood swings: Research indicates that a structural change takes place in the brain as a result of sleep apnea. This may be attributed to a chemical imbalance, and it can result in irritability among those who have sleep apnea.
  10. Hypertension: The chemical imbalance caused by sleep apnea can cause hypertension and can be exacerbated by lowered levels of oxygen in the blood as a result of breathing interruptions.

What Happens If Sleep Apnea Isn’t Treated?

When sleep apnea remains undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. Since breathing pauses may last for longer than ten seconds, the longer sleep apnea remains untreated, the more damage it can inflict. Often, the brain doesn’t realize that it’s not receiving oxygen during the lapses, so it doesn’t wake the individual. Those who have additional health disorders such as hypertension or Type 2 diabetes may find that their symptoms worsen more quickly than others who don’t have these types of health issues.

How Can a Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?

Dentists are trained in the treatment of OSA, so your dentist can help with your treatment. The first step is to diagnose the disease. This can be done in a sleep study at home or in a center that’s dedicated to the process. If you need treatment for sleep apnea, then call our office to set up an appointment.

Once you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, then you have several treatment options available to you. A continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine can force air through a face mask, which ensures a continuous flow of oxygen during sleep. The device will breathe for you even if you pause for ten seconds or more. This encourages normal levels of oxygen throughout the body and minimizes some of the side effects of sleep apnea.

Oral appliance therapy, or OAT therapy, is another popular treatment for sleep apnea. OAT therapy uses a device that’s similar to a mouthguard, and it helps to maintain an open airway. OAT appliances are more portable than CPAP machines and less cumbersome, so many people prefer them. Your dentist will recommend the best treatment for your unique needs.

Where Can I Get Treated for Sleep Apnea?

Your local dentist is the best source for treating your sleep apnea. You’ll be healthier, more rested, and you’ll have a better quality of life when you get treatment for your sleep apnea. If you need an appointment for sleep apnea treatment, then call College Park Dental at (301) 238-7083 to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated dentists. Make the call today. You’ll be glad you did.

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