Do you spend a lot of nights sleeping on the couch because your sleeping partner can’t stand your snoring? Snoring that is so loud it disturbs the sleep of others is a major indicator of a condition known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, while very serious, is treatable, but getting a proper diagnosis can prove difficult: after all, you’re not conscious when it’s happening!
Even though sleep apnea is considered a sleep disorder, your dentist at Edgewood Dental Care (serving all of Northern Kentucky) can provide a diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea. Do you have sleep apnea? While you won’t be able to observe the symptoms that occur during sleep, sleep apnea can cause serious problems in your waking life that can even be life-threatening; at the very least, all that disruptive, loud snoring is putting pressure on your personal relationships, because it is robbing your family of sleep.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea’s primary symptom is the brief cessation of breathing while you sleep. Throughout the night, your breathing stops for short periods. Sometimes these pauses last a few seconds, but they can also be as long as a couple of minutes at a time. Your brain and body need oxygen to function properly, and all those little pauses add up to a major deficit in the amount of oxygen getting to your body. You probably won’t notice the breathing cessation yourself (although if you have a sleeping partner, you can ask them to keep a look-out). What you will notice are the day-time impacts of sleep apnea:
Frequent daytime sleepiness and fatigue: While feeling unrested after a full night’s sleep is a fairly common complaint, sufferers of sleep apnea feel unrested and tired during the day frequently. Additionally, the severity of these feelings are much more intense than what non-sufferers experience. If you wake up feeling as if you’ve gotten no sleep at all on a regular basis, you might have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea sufferers also tend to nap frequently, and you might also have been “called out” for nodding off when it isn’t appropriate, such as during a meeting, or even behind the wheel or operating complex machinery (which can have tragic results). Sleep apnea sufferers may also see a reduction in their performance at work, and it is not uncommon for people with sleep apnea to report difficulty thinking and paying attention. Dramatic changes in one’s mood may also be a sign of sleep apnea.
Physical Effects of Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea also causes physical discomfort. If you wake up in the morning and frequently experience severe headaches, sore throat or dry mouth, these are indicators that sleep apnea might be a problem for you.
Frequent insomnia is also a symptom of sleep apnea.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea’s primary symptom (cessation in breathing) is caused by a dysfunction in the muscles and tissues that make up your airway, also known as your upper respiratory tract. Your airway is something like a garden hose; very flexible, but a big enough kink will stop the flow of air.
There are two types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea. Both cause the same cessation in breathing and generally the same symptoms, but what causes them is what makes them different. In central sleep apnea, the brain is sending signals to the muscles in your airway, but they just aren’t getting there (like a bad phone line). In obstructive sleep apnea, the cessation of breath happens because your tongue falls back on your soft palate while you sleep. This causes a momentary blockage (obstruction) in air flow.
Central sleep apnea is the rarer of the two types. Though your chances of developing central sleep apnea are increased if you’ve had a stroke or heart disease, the vast majority of sleep apnea cases are the obstructive type. Central sleep apnea may be repaired through surgical intervention; obstructive sleep apnea can be controlled with treatments such as a nightguard, or in more severe cases, a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). A nightguard is an oral appliance that is similar to an athletic mouthguard that you wear while you sleep. It keeps your tongue in place, which prevents the blockage that causes the symptoms. A nightguard can address most people’s problems, and your nightguard will be custom designed by your dentist specifically to fit you, for greater comfort and effectiveness.
CPAP machines are helpful for those who have more severe symptoms. It involves wearing a mask while you sleep, over your nose and mouth. A device that is similar an air compressor keeps your air way propped open with gentle air pressure.
Waking Up A Constant Pain?
You might have sleep apnea! Your dentist at Edgewood Dental Care can diagnose your problem and provide you with a solution that meets your needs without having to refer you to another physician you don’t know.