People with sleep disorders like apnea tend to be tired and stressed, since they cannot get a good night’s sleep. Snoring and other sleep apnea symptoms can also disturb bed partners, but there is far more at stake than just lack of sleep!
What is Sleep Apnea?
The word ‘apnea’ can be translated as ‘stopping breathing’ or ‘no breath’, and that’s exactly what happens. With sleep apnea, air flow to your lungs gets cut off for 10 seconds or more while you’re asleep and you stop breathing. This triggers your brain to wake you up and make you take a breath before going back to sleep.
This constant cycle of waking up and falling asleep again, up to 30 times an hour, takes a toll on both physical and mental health. You may feel tired or irritated all the time without realizing why. In fact, most people with sleep apnea don’t even know they have it!
Sleep apnea is classified into three types:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA – The most common type, where air flow to lungs is blocked by an obstruction in the nose or throat (upper airway).
- Central Sleep Apnea or CSA – Not as common as OSA, where the upper airway is open but automatic breathing stops due to poor brain-body communication.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea – Where the upper airway is obstructed, but there is also no effort made to breathe automatically while sleeping.
What Are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea symptoms may include:
- Snoring, choking or gasping during sleep
- Pauses in breathing while you’re asleep
- Persistent fatigue and lack of energy
- Daytime sleepiness or headaches
- Depression or mood swings
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Sexual dysfunction
What Are the Risks of Not Getting Sleep Apnea Treatment?
Here are some of the health risks you may face with untreated sleep apnea:
- Obesity – Lack of energy, hormonal disruptions and changes in appetite levels can make you gain weight, also worsening apnea symptoms.
- Diabetes – Gaps in breathing cause oxygen deprivation, increasing insulin resistance and blood glucose levels that are linked to diabetes.
- Heart Disease & Stroke – Low oxygen levels and disturbed sleep can affect blood flow, increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
- High Blood Pressure – Frequent waking and low oxygen levels during sleep are also risk factors for hypertension and changes in blood pressure.
- Asthma & Lung Problems – Apnea may be accompanied by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma.
- Mental Health Issues – Sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can cause irritability, anxiety, depression and increased levels of stress.
- Road Accidents – Daytime sleepiness, tiredness or fatigue can lead to increased risk of falling asleep behind the wheel and low alertness levels.
- Work & Lifestyle Effects – Lack of quality sleep and energy could affect your performance and cause aggressive behavior at work, school and home.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
The first step in sleep apnea treatment is diagnosis. Visit your doctor and provide all the information you can gather about your sleep and breathing patterns, energy levels, snoring or other symptoms, as well as medication you take.
After a checkup, your doctor may suggest:
- Sleep Study – This where you visit a sleep center, and your sleep state, eye movement, heart rate, muscle activity, airflow, blood oxygen levels and other functions are monitored by a sleep specialist overnight.
- CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure breathing devices are used to treat OSA. A CPAP mask is placed over the mouth or nose, and air is gently pushed into the upper airway in order to help it remain open.
- Dental Appliances – These devices control the position of your tongue and lower jaw, to reduce obstructions in the airway and boost air flow to lungs. Visit a Fresno dentist for dental appliance sleep apnea therapy.
- Other Methods – Sleep apnea may also be treated with upper airway surgery, nasal expiratory positive airway pressure or hypoglossal nerve stimulation.
Consult a specialist if you think you have sleep apnea. Dr. Michael Long is a family dentist in Fresno, CA who can help you diagnose sleep apnea symptoms and treat the condition with dental appliances. Book your appointment with Dr. Long at (559) 432-4850 today!