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The 10 Signs of Sleep Apnea

Many people are unfamiliar with sleep apnea, although it’s a serious sleep disorder that affects more than 22 million Americans. With proper treatment, the effects of it can subside, but without proper treatment, the effects can be very serious or even life-threatening.

How Many Types of Sleep Apnea Exist?

There are only three types of sleep apnea:

  1. OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea, is the most common and occurs due to a tracheal blockage that may partially or completely obstruct your airway. Although the pauses are brief, usually 10 seconds or less, you can have as many as 30 of them in an hour. This causes a severe disruption in your sleep patterns.
  2. CSA, or central sleep apnea, is linked to the lower brain stem and occurs due to an injury or damage to the medulla oblongata, which regulates the body’s autonomic functions.
  3. Complex or mixed sleep apnea, which presents with a combination of both OSA and CSA symptoms and may continue even after the blockage no longer exists. Researchers aren’t sure why the body doesn’t recognize the removal of the obstruction, but it sometimes doesn’t.

Are There Causes and Risk Factors That Will Encourage Sleep Apnea?

Although sleep apnea can occur to any person at any age, even children, there are conditions that can contribute to its onset, such as:

  • Chronic sinusitis, which often inhibits the flow of oxygen through the windpipe
  • High blood pressure
  • Male gender
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Physical conditions such as asthma, adenoids, and genetically narrow airways
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Smoking, because it weakens the muscles in the air passage

Which Signs and Symptoms Will Indicate That I Have Sleep Apnea?

There are 10 common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. If you have some or several of them, then make an appointment with your dentist. They are:

  1. Drowsiness during the daytime: Even though you may think you slept sufficiently during the night, your sleep was probably interrupted by lapses in your breathing. This prevents you from getting the rejuvenating REM sleep that your body needs, so you’ll be exhausted throughout the day.
  2. Decrease in sex drive: A decreased libido has been clinically linked to sleep apnea.
  3. Gasping or choking awake: Your brain will wake you when it perceives that it’s not receiving an adequate supply of oxygen. Waking you is the body’s way of increasing your oxygen flow. You may not know what woke you, and in the morning, you may not remember waking up.
  4. Hypertension: The same chemicals that regulate your emotions are also involved in regulating your blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension and then develop sleep apnea, you should consult your dentist without delay.
  5. Lack of mental clarity: When you don’t get enough good quality sleep during the night, you’ll probably be mentally fuzzy throughout the day, and you’ll have difficulty concentrating.
  6. Lapses in breathing: You may not be aware that you experience pauses in your breathing during the night, but your sleep partner is probably aware of it. Intermittent breathing is a classic sign of sleep apnea.
  7. Mood swings: If you notice that you’re moody, but it’s not due to a specific cause, it may be the result of sleep apnea. Research has linked moodiness to changes in the brain chemistry that occurs due to sleep apnea. Plus, if you’re constantly exhausted, you may be more inclined to be cranky.
  8. Morning headaches: If you habitually wake up with a headache that’s not attributable to another cause, then it may be due to sleep apnea.
  9. Scratchy throat and a dry mouth: Mouth-breathing during the night, which commonly occurs with sleep apnea, will cause you to wake up with a scratchy throat and a dry mouth.
  10. Snoring: Snoring can be a symptom of several physical issues, one of which is sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when air is being forced past a blocked airway, so the muscles and tissues in the trachea begin to vibrate as the air is forced through them, which causes snoring.

Can Sleep Apnea Endanger My Health?

At the onset, sleep apnea isn’t inherently dangerous, but it can become dangerous if it’s not treated. The pauses in breathing can cause dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide to accumulate. They can also cause sleep deprivation, which can be very serious. The side effects of sleep deprivation are similar to those of intoxication, so your ability to drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery may be severely impaired. Untreated sleep apnea can exacerbate existing health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes or hypertension, and it can hasten the onset of other serious health issues such as heart attack, heart failure, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

How Do I Get Treated for My Sleep Apnea?

If you think you have sleep apnea, then you first need a diagnosis before you can be treated. A diagnosis is as close as your local dentist, so call to schedule an appointment. The diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea is part of the required curriculum for dentists, so you’ll be able to ascertain if you have sleep apnea, and your dentist can provide treatment for it.

To be diagnosed with sleep apnea, you’ll need to have a sleep study, which can be performed at home or in a clinic. The results will confirm the presence of sleep apnea or another malady. If you have sleep apnea, then you have two treatment options, both of which involve breathing machines.

The first treatment option is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP machine. This is a machine that continually forces air through a mask so that you have a steady flow of oxygen all night. The second treatment option is oral appliance therapy, or OAT therapy, which also uses a machine connected to a mask, but the mask is much smaller. It’s more like a mouth guard that’s worn for sports, and it’s our most popular option. However, your dentist will advise you which type is better for your needs.

Is Help Available for Sleep Apnea?

If you have sleep apnea, then your local dentist can help you. Call Tioga Dental & Orthodontics at to schedule an appointment for help with your sleep apnea. You’ll receive a comprehensive exam and individualized attention so that you can resume living your life to its fullest. If you have sleep apnea, then don’t delay in seeking treatment. Call us today. You’ll be glad you did.

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