Sleep apnea is a common concern – about 22 million Americans experience it. The more sobering statistic is that experts estimate around 80% of moderate to severe cases go undiagnosed. If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, you’re not getting the quality of sleep that you deserve – and other health conditions could develop as a result. Learn the common signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) so that you know what to watch for, and get in touch to learn more about oral appliances for treatment.
What is obstructive sleep apnea, exactly?
There are three types of sleep apnea – obstructive, central, and complex. Obstructive is the most common type and occurs when the airway is blocked during sleep. It’s typically blocked by the tongue collapsing against the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea is caused by a disruption in communication between the brain and the muscles that control your breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the other two types.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you’ll benefit from treatment that helps the tongue remain in a healthy position during sleep. This will keep your airway clear and your breathing uninterrupted.
Common Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea
Loud snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea. You’ll need to evaluate other related symptoms and also seek professional attention to receive a proper diagnosis.
Snoring can also be related to congestion, being overweight, large throat tissues, a large tongue, aging, and the way your head and neck are shaped.
If you live with a partner, children, or roommates, ask them whether they’ve heard you snoring loudly at night (if they haven’t told you already)!
You regularly wake up during the night
People with sleep apnea can wake up hundreds of times in a single night, although most are so brief that you may not realize it. But if you notice yourself waking frequently, sleep apnea could be the cause. Your body rouses you to attempt to restart breathing when the airway is blocked.
You feel exhausted during the day
If you’re waking up frequently, you’re not able to achieve full REM sleep. This leads to you feeling tired throughout the day, struggling to concentrate, and even having memory problems. If you’re feeling more tired than you should be based on the number of hours you slept, it’s worth checking in with a doctor to evaluate the cause.
You choke or gasp during sleep
Your body will do anything to restart breathing. If you’re asleep while your breathing is interrupted, you may wake up choking or gasping. If you regularly feel like you can’t breathe during the night, sleep apnea is a likely culprit.
You wake up with headaches
Poor breathing and poor quality of sleep can cause ongoing headaches, especially when you first wake up in the morning after a troubled night.
You have a dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
If your airway is being blocked, it’s more likely that your body will attempt to breathe through the mouth. This intake of air can lead to a sore throat or dry mouth. The choking and gasping accompanying OSA can also cause throat irritation.
Dry mouth is dangerous for your teeth because saliva helps prevent cavities and enamel erosion. If your mouth feels dry regularly, be sure to touch base with your dentist.
You have high blood pressure
High blood pressure is related to a wide range of conditions, including sleep apnea. As with these other symptoms, it’s important to take a holistic look at your health and signs of concern to evaluate the underlying cause.
You have abrupt mood changes
When you’re not sleeping well, you can become irritable and even depressed. The kind of long-term sleep deprivation that accompanies chronic sleep apnea can have a serious impact on your daily mood.
Is it sleep apnea, or something else?
There is a wide range of sleep conditions and other health problems that may be causing similar symptoms. As always, you should follow up on any suspicions by meeting with a qualified provider. They’ll evaluate you and provide professional, expert guidance as to next steps.
If you’re struggling with what might be sleep apnea, schedule a consultation to meet with Dr. Thomas and learn more about your treatment options. An oral appliance will hold your tongue in place to keep your airway clear and help prevent the need for more involved measures like a CPAP machine.