Sleep apnea is more than just an annoying condition that keeps you up at night. In fact, if sleep apnea is left untreated, it can be a potentially serious disorder that can negatively impact your overall health and even be life-threatening for some people. Fortunately, there are very effective ways to treat sleep apnea. But before you and your doctor or dentist choose the best treatment for you, you’ll need to recognize the signs of this sleep disorder. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most common sleep apnea symptoms that people throughout the Cedar Park, Texas area should watch for.
Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing stops and starts for repeated intervals while asleep. There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea – considered to be the most common form, obstructive sleep apnea takes place when throat muscles relax to such an extent that breathing is interrupted.
- Central sleep apnea – this category of the sleep disorder occurs when the patient’s brain fails to send signals to the muscles that regulate breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea (also referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea) – occurs in patients who experience both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
The Most Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms
People can suffer from some type of sleep disorder and never even realize it. What follows are some of the signs that might indicate you have sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring – Lots of people snore, but people with sleep apnea snore very loudly, often waking up other members of the household and/or themselves. Loud snoring in itself does not necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea. But if you snore loudly and experience other symptoms listed here as well, it can be a good indication of sleep apnea.
- You quit breathing for periods of time while you’re asleep – You may be totally unaware that you’re doing this, but if you sleep with another person, he or she should be able to tell you whether or not you stop breathing for periods of time when you’re asleep.
- You gasp for air while sleeping – This possible symptom of sleep apnea is usually obvious to the person experiencing it, since this type of gasping normally wakes you up.
- Dry mouth – If you wake up with a dry mouth, it could be a sign of sleep apnea. Because this sleep disorder impairs a person’s breathing, it’s normal for apnea patients to sleep with their mouths open. This results in a dry mouth.
- Morning headaches – People with sleep apnea experience a drop in their level of oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide. This causes blood vessels in the brain to dilate, and that leads to headaches.
- Interrupted sleep – Although you may be able to get to sleep, if you have sleep apnea it’s quite common to wake up periodically throughout the night. Whether it’s gasping for breath, an excessively dry mouth, or waking yourself up by snoring, there are several other symptoms of sleep apnea that lead to interrupted sleep.
- Daytime sleepiness – It stands to reason that if you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, you’re going to be sleepy during the day. More than just an annoyance, feeling sleepy during the day can result in falling asleep at inappropriate times or places.
- Inattentiveness – It’s hard to concentrate when you’re tired, which is usually the case for people with sleep apnea. That’s why so many apnea patients report difficulty in concentrating on tasks throughout the course of each day.
- Irritability – Most of us get grouchy when we’re tired, so it should come as no surprise that people with sleep apnea often feel irritable.
Who is Most at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
This sleeping disorder can affect people of both genders and virtually any age. But there are some factors that put people at a greater risk for developing sleep apnea than others. These include the following:
- Obesity – People with excess fat deposits around their upper airway are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
- Narrow airways – Some people have narrower airways than others. This could be due to genetics, or enlarged adenoids or tonsils that can block the airway.
- Being male – Generally speaking, men are more likely to have sleep apnea than women. However, post-menopausal women are more prone to developing it than younger women.
- Age – Although people of any age may suffer from sleep apnea, it’s more common in older adults.
- Genetics – If someone else in your family has sleep apnea, you may be more prone to developing it yourself.
- Personal habits – People who drink alcohol or take sedatives and/or tranquilizers run a higher risk of developing sleep apnea since these substances cause throat muscles to relax. Smoking tobacco also puts you at higher risk since smoking increases fluid retention and inflammation of the upper airway. Users of opioid drugs fall into a higher use category as well.
- Sinus problems – If you regularly experience nasal congestion, you’re more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
- Other health issues – People with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease, and/or have suffered a stroke are all at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can not only interrupt your sleep, it can make chronic conditions worse and lead to other more serious health issues. In some cases, it can even be life-threatening. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to treat this condition. You might be surprised to learn that many dentists can treat patients with sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. In fact, one of the most common methods of treating sleep apnea is the use of a mouth guard when sleeping at night. This type of device, which is custom made for patients by dentists who treat sleep disorders, helps to position the mouth and jaw in a manner that helps to keep the airway open while the patient sleeps.
For more information about sleep apnea, and to find out more about the most common sleep apnea symptoms, contact your family doctor or your Cedar Park, Texas dentist today and schedule an appointment.