What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is when your breathing stops during sleep. Most of the time, this is obstructive sleep apnea in which your throat or tongue collapses to close your airway, cutting off your air supply.

In response to the oxygen shortage, your heart starts beating harder and faster. To restart breathing, your brain must awaken slightly. Although you may not know you wake up, it’s enough to disrupt your sleep, and it may happen hundreds of times a night.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

One of the biggest dangers of sleep apnea is that it is widely undiagnosed. Perhaps 80-90% of people with the condition are undiagnosed.
You should suspect sleep apnea if you:

  • Snore loudly
  • Make gasping or choking sounds when you sleep
  • Wake frequently to urinate at night
  • Experience night sweats
  • Have headaches in the morning
  • Experience memory problems
  • Have lost motivation
  • Are sleepy during the day
  • Fall asleep at work, in front of the TV, or while driving
  • Have high blood pressure, especially if it doesn’t respond to medicationHave atrial fibrillation
  • Experience loss of sexual function or enjoyment

Of course, these are just a few of the symptoms associated with sleep apnea. If you experience a few of these, you should talk to your doctor about a sleep test. A sleep test is the only way to properly diagnose sleep apnea. You can take a sleep test at a lab or in the comfort of your own bed.

Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sleep is critical to your health. When your sleep is disrupted, it can have dangerous consequences to your health. People with sleep apnea can experience dangerous, or deadly complications like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • Low energy
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Kidney disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Inattention-related traffic or workplace accidents
  • Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts

All of these and more have been linked to sleep apnea. Although the link is stronger for some conditions than others, the combined effect is that people with sleep apnea are 5-6 times more likely to die from these complications than people without sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

The most commonly prescribed sleep apnea treatment is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). CPAP works by forcing air down your throat to keep it open. This treatment is virtually 100% effective when used properly. Unfortunately, most people are non-compliant due to the cumbersome nature of the machine. Nearly two-thirds of people prescribed CPAP stop using it within three months.

Oral appliance therapy is a more comfortable and convenient alternative. Although not 100% effective, most people prescribed oral appliance therapy keep using it. This leads to better treatment outcomes.

Do You Suspect Sleep Apnea?

If you think might have sleep apnea, we can help and desire to have a restful night’s sleep, please call (586) 977-8413 today for an appointment at Skowronski Family Dentistry.