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10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders affecting adults in the United States. It’s characterized by reduced or halted breathing, called hypopneas or apneas.

Even though sleep apnea can have negative health consequences from interrupted sleep, many individuals don’t realize they have sleep apnea, especially those who sleep alone. Learning about the risk factors and symptoms can help you determine whether you can get help for this easily treatable sleep disorder. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, over 22 million Americans have some form of sleep apena.

Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea the Only Type of Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of the sleep disorder. You momentarily stop breathing anywhere from five to 30 or more times per hour. Your body will wake you for a second and you’ll gasp for air, but probably not remember waking. This prevents a person from getting the deep, restful sleep they need to feel energized in the morning.

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a failure of the brain to tell the body to breathe, instead of a physical obstruction. It’s usually due to a medical condition, substance abuse or sleeping at a high altitude. Sometimes, the cause isn’t known.

Mixed sleep apnea, also called complex sleep apnea, is a combination of the two other types. Researchers found a small portion of people with severe OSA failed to breathe after treatment removed the obstruction, leading to complex sleep apnea.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Multiple factors can contribute to the development of OSA. The main risk factor is obesity. Of all adults with OSA, most are obese. Losing weight can decrease OSA symptoms, and treatment can make it easier to lose weight. Other risk factors and causes include:

  • Being over age 40 increases your risk because age decreases a person’s ability to keep their upper throat muscles stiff while sleeping.
  • Being male is a high risk factor as OSA in twice as common in males than females.
  • A family history of sleep apnea.
  • Smoking can make sleep apnea worse as it can cause throat inflammation.
  • Having a large neck which can create a narrow airway.

What Are the Signs of OSA I Should Watch For?

  1. Excessive daytime sleepiness after normally adequate sleep, since restorative sleep is impossible with OSA.
  2. A lack of energy during the day.
  3. Decreased alertness and difficulty focusing, such as falling asleep watching TV or working.
  4. Morning headaches caused by a lack of oxygen or sleep.
  5. Morning dry mouth from nighttime mouth breathing.
  6. Gasping for air or chocking while asleep.
  7. Snoring loudly. However, it’s important to note that not everyone who snores has OSA.
  8. High blood pressure which can be caused by sleep apnea, but can also be exacerbated by untreated sleep apnea.
  9. A lack of libido which comes from the body’s inability to produce enough testosterone, which controls the sex drive, during sleep.
  10. Irritability from chemical changes in the brain and a lack of sleep.

What Happens If I Don’t Get Sleep Apnea Treatment?

Even mild OSA, where you stop breathing for between five to 15 times an hour while sleeping, can be disruptive to your life. Untreated moderate to severe OSA can make you more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Excessive daytime sleepiness and a lack of concentration will also increase your risk of having a vehicle accident, as grogginess can affect your ability to react quickly while driving. OSA can also affect your work performance if you have trouble concentrating or maintaining your focus. It can be especially embarrassing to fall asleep during a meeting.

If you need surgery with general anesthesia, discuss your untreated sleep apnea with your surgeon. Lying on your back and having breathing problems could cause major complications during surgery.

Untreated OSA can also affect family members. Loud snoring can disrupt other people’s sleep, causing them to have some OSA symptoms even though they don’t suffer from the sleep disorder.

What Sleep Apnea Treatment Do Dentists Offer?

The treatment you choose for OSA will depend on the severity of your OSA, your personal preference and the recommendation of your sleep health provider. In some cases, lifestyle changes may treat mild OSA adequately. Typical recommendations include weight loss, avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime and positional therapy (lying on the side instead on the back).

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) remains the most popular and best known treatment for individuals with OSA. The pressurized air, delivered through a mask attached to the machine by a hose, keep the airway open. Some patients cannot tolerate CPAP, finding the mask claustrophobic or irritating to their skin. Nosebleeds and a dry mouth are also common complaints, contributing to low rates of compliance.

Oral appliance therapy involves wearing a mouthpiece made-to-order by a dentist. It looks like a retainer with hinges that adjust the lower jaw slightly forward to keep the airway open. Patients often find oral appliances more comfortable and convenient than using CPAP machine. Increased usage helps control symptoms better, making the person with OSA feel less groggy and more alert during the day.

We suggest our patients avoid off-the-shelf oral appliances. These are typically inexpensive, but they are one-size-fits-all devices that may not fit everyone comfortably. If your oral appliance isn’t comfortable, you won’t wear it every night. If you get one from us, we’ll always be here to adjust it for you as needed to make sure it is comfortable and effective.

Where Can I Find Sleep Apnea Treatment Near Me?

We offer effective and affordable oral appliance therapy for OSA. If you, or someone you love, have sleep apnea, please call us for an evaluation. You don’t have to live each day feeling tired and unable to do all the things you want to do. Call us today to learn how our experienced dentists can help you enjoy a better quality of life and better overall health.

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(703) 595-2887

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