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The 10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Although sleep apnea is a disorder that affects more than 22 million Americans, many are unfamiliar with its signs and symptoms as well as the severity of the condition. Sleep apnea can adversely impact your overall health, your daily life, your relationships, and in some cases, it can be life-threatening.

Are There Several Types of Sleep Apnea?

There is more than one type of sleep apnea. There are three types of sleep apnea, and they are as follows:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is the most commonly diagnosed.
  2. Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is usually the result of an illness such as Parkinson’s disease or an injury to the lower part of the brain stem, which is called the medulla oblongata and controls autonomic functions like breathing.
  3. Complex sleep apnea, also referred to as mixed sleep apnea, has symptoms of both OSA and CSA. Although the mechanics of mixed sleep apnea haven’t yet been determined, mixed sleep apnea usually begins as the result of a physical impediment but then continues after the obstruction has been eliminated.

Are There Standard Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can occur to any person of any age, from child to senior. However, there are lifestyle habits and personal traits that can make it more likely that an individual will develop sleep apnea, such as:

  • Chronic nasal congestion: This frequently impedes the free flow of oxygen through the airway.
  • Health conditions: Adenoids, asthma, and naturally restricted airways can also impede the flow of oxygen through the air passages, causing sleep apnea.
  • High blood pressure
  • Male gender: Men are at twice the risk of developing this condition.
  • Obesity of Excess weight: Weight gain can cause fat deposits that restrict the airway.
  • Smoking, because it weakens the tracheal muscles.
  • Women who are postmenopausal

Will I Be Able to Recognize If I Have Sleep Apnea?

There are 10 common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. You may have some, most, or all of them. If you have none of them, then you probably don’t have sleep apnea since it doesn’t usually present asymptomatically. The following are common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:

  1. Breathing pauses: You may be unaware that your breathing stops during the night, but your sleep partner can probably confirm the fact. Intermittent breathing is a classic sign of sleep apnea.
  2. Daytime lethargy: Even though you feel you should have gotten enough sleep the previous night, your sleep was probably disrupted by lapses in your breathing. Disrupted sleep doesn’t allow your body to get the rejuvenating REM sleep cycles that it needs.
  3. Falling libido: A decreased sex drive has been clinically linked to sleep apnea.
  4. Gasping or choking awake: When your brain realizes that your body isn’t getting oxygen, it will awaken you so that you’ll resume breathing. You may not know why you woke up or even remember waking up, but your body will suffer from the disruption to your sleep.
  5. Hypertension: Your blood pressure is regulated by the same chemicals that regulate your emotions. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and then develop sleep apnea, then you should consult your dentist without delay.
  6. Mental fogginess: When your body doesn’t rejuvenate through REM sleep during the night, you’ll probably have fuzzy thinking during the day and find it difficult to concentrate.
  7. Mood changes: If you’re moody without an apparent reason, you may have sleep apnea. Research has linked moodiness to changes in the brain chemistry that regulates your emotions. When you’re constantly exhausted, you’re more inclined to be cranky.
  8. Morning headaches: If you usually awaken with a headache that’s not attributable to other causes, then it may be due to sleep apnea.
  9. Scratchy throat and dry mouth in the morning: Mouth-breathing throughout the night, a common occurrence with sleep apnea, will result in a scratchy throat and a dry mouth in the morning.
  10. Snoring: Snoring can be a symptom of several health problems, one of which is sleep apnea. When air is being forced past a blocked airway, the tissues and muscles in the trachea move back and forth, which causes snoring.

How Dangerous Is Sleep Apnea?

When sleep apnea is initially diagnosed or develops, it’s not inherently dangerous. However, when sleep apnea continues without treatment, then it can cause a buildup of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which is a dangerous condition. Without treatment, sleep apnea can also cause the brain and body to suffer from sleep deprivation, the effects of which are similar to those of intoxication. Sleep deprivation can impair your ability to operate a vehicle or operate equipment, so you can cause accidents and endanger others.

When not treated, sleep apnea can also exacerbate existing conditions such as Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. It can also hasten their onset in those who don’t have the diseases but may be at risk for developing them.

Is Sleep Apnea Treatment Complicated?

Treatment for sleep apnea is fairly simple, but you must be diagnosed with it before you can be treated for it. A diagnosis is easy to obtain from your local dentist. Although it may seem counterintuitive, sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment is part of the educational curriculum for dentists, so if you think you have sleep apnea and need a diagnosis, then call your local dentist.

To diagnose sleep apnea, you’ll need to have a sleep study, which can be conducted in your home or in a clinical setting. The sleep study will confirm the presence of sleep apnea or another condition, but either way, we’ll be able to recommend a treatment.

There are two options for treating sleep apnea, both of which use a machine. The first option uses a CPAP machine that’s attached to a mask that you wear during sleep. The machine maintains a continuous flow of air through the mask even during breathing pauses.

The second type of treatment is OAT therapy, or oral appliance therapy. It’s similar to the CPAP treatment, except that the mask is much smaller. The OAT therapy mask is similar to a sports mouthguard, and the machine detects breathing pauses and supplies air through the mask. Of course, the choice is yours, but your dentist will recommend the best option for you, depending on your unique needs.

Is Sleep Apnea Treatment Available Near Me?

Treatment for your sleep apnea is as close as your local dentist, so if you need to determine whether you have sleep apnea or not, then call Dentists' Office of The Hudson Valley at (845) 512-1230 to schedule an appointment. You’ll receive a comprehensive oral examination as well as the help you need to resume your active, enjoyable life without the exhaustion, mental fog, and lethargy that accompanies sleep apnea. Call us today. You’ll be glad you made the call.

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