How to Tell if You Have Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can wreak havoc on your daily lifestyle. Here is how to tell if you have sleep apnea and what you should do if you have it.
Over 22 million Americans have sleep apnea.
If you’ve had issues breathing while you’re sleeping, and are lethargic during the day, it’s natural to think that you might be dealing with something more than an off-week.
So, how to tell if you have sleep apnea? Seeing a doctor or dentist is the only way to know for sure. In this article, we’ll cover the sleep apnea basics.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that’s defined by having disturbances in breathing while sleeping. People with this disorder can completely stop breathing. This can happen a handful to hundreds of times during a sleep cycle.
It can be a terrifying experience for those who experience it. Because sleep apnea involves your ability to breathe, it has the potential to be a very serious issue.
However, not all cases are equal. There are different types of sleep apnea and many different causes and treatments.
Understanding the Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
Obstructive sleep apnea simply happens when the throat muscles relax. Central sleep apnea is a neurological issue that happens when the brain misfires and doesn’t send the right messages to the muscles responsible for breathing. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is the label that’s given to people who have a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Who’s At Risk for Sleep Apnea
Some people are more at risk than others. When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea, obese people and people with thicker necks are at a higher risk. This is because they typically have very narrow airways.
Also, people who suffer from nasal congestion can develop sleep apnea easier than others. People with heart disorders and who have suffered strokes are often found to have sleep apnea more than people who haven’t.
Sleep apnea seems to appear more frequently in older males, and those with a family history of sleep apnea. It’s also noted that smoking and the use of drugs, pain medications, and alcohol can cause a person to develop sleep apnea.
The Different Causes of Sleep Apnea
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, there are several different causes of sleep apnea.
Some of the common causes of sleep apnea are:
- Obesity can lead to extra fat that obstructs airways.
- Enlarged tonsils can block airways.
- Endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism acromegaly and polycystic ovary syndrome can all cause hormonal based issues in brain function when it comes to breathing.
Other more serious causes of sleep apnea include:
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Neuromuscular conditions
- Genetic syndromes
- Premature birth
Symptoms: How to Tell if You have Sleep Apnea
Some of the most common symptoms include loud snoring and struggling to get air while you’re sleeping. Waking up to dry mount and headaches is also a prominent sign of sleep apnea.
Many sufferers of sleep apnea also report difficulty sleeping and staying awake during the day. Forgetfulness, depression, anxiety and other mood issues are also associated with sleep apnea.
Complications Caused by Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea can feel fatigued during the day. The inability to have normal sleep can leave sufferers feeling tired and unfocused. This might lead to a feeling of irritability and depression.
Drops in blood oxygen during sleep can create tension in the cardiovascular system, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart issues. It’s also reported that sleep apnea can cause you to develop insulin resistance, increasing your chances for developing Type 2 diabetes. Liver problems and metabolic syndrome, and medical complications during surgery are all other reported potential issues.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Luckily, no matter what type of sleep apnea you might suffer from, there’s typically an effective treatment. If obesity is the primary cause, lifestyle changes can be made.
Breathing devices and mouthpieces can also ease symptoms. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices are often administered. They are devices that make the air pressure within a mask greater than the air outside the mask, which helps keep internal airway passages open.
Although it’s effective, it’s very awkward and uncomfortable for many sleep apnea sufferers. This pushes many people to airway pressure devices and oral appliances instead. These are designed to be more comfortable and are simpler to manage.
You can find devices like these from your dentist. For more serious cases of sleep apnea, surgery might be the best option. This is the last resort and is only suggested once all other methods have failed.
Surgery options include tissue removal of the moth and throat, which stops parts of the throat from vibrating (which causes snoring). For more mild forms of sleep apnea, there are also procedures where you can shrink tissue instead of removing it. Jaw repositioning, implants, and nerve stimulation are also all other options used for moderate to extreme cases of sleep apnea.
When to See a Doctor
The only true way to know how to tell if you have sleep apnea is to consult a doctor. A doctor will evaluate you and likely ask you to take home sleep tests, and possibly refer you to a sleep specialist.
For non-neurological causes of sleep apnea, you might be surprised to learn that a dentist can help. Many different types of oral appliances that are designed to keep the throat open can be found at the dentist.
A highly-skilled dentist will work with you to figure out which device works best with your unique situation. Follow-up appointments will be necessary to check the effectiveness of the device. And to also ensure that the device fits well and is working properly.
If you’re sure that you have a form of obstructive sleep apnea, the next step is to make an appointment with an experienced dentist! At Summerbrook Dental, we approach dental and orthodontic care a little differently than other practices in that we make it clear that you – our patients – are our top priority. We want to hear your input on the care that you’re looking for, how we can make you as comfortable as possible and what we can do to provide better customer service.
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