It can wreck your whole day when you wake up from a full night’s sleep and still don’t feel rested. This happens to all of us from time to time, but if this is something that is happening to you frequently, you might be suffering from a condition known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea takes place during sleep, and is characterized by a cessation (pause) in breathing that can last for a few seconds, up to a few minutes. These “breathless intervals” are very destructive to the functioning of your body and your brain.
Why are we writing about sleep apnea? It surprises a lot of folks but your dentist can do a lot to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea and allow you to get the restorative rest you need to get the most out of each day. In fact, Dr. Smith, your dentist, is a specialist in a field called neuromuscular dentistry. This gives him unique insight into the relationship between the alignment of your jaws and difficulties such as sleep apnea (and TMD, also known as TMJ).
Really Smile in Carmel, IN can offer comfortable, convenient solutions to sleep apnea without the drawbacks of conventional treatments (like CPAP).
If Sleep Apnea Happens During Sleep, How Can I Know if I Have It?
While it is true that sleep apnea occurs during sleep, there are still ways for you to spot symptoms; however, your dentist (in collaboration with sleep specialists throughout the area) will need to make an “official” diagnosis.
The first signs of sleep apnea that most can identify are irregularities in breathing (observed by your sleeping partner), and loud snoring. Loud snoring is the most dramatic indicator of sleep apnea. It is not uncommon for sleep apnea sufferers to snore so loudly that it can disturb the sleep of others. It’s very likely that you may already be aware that you are a loud snorer, but the connection between your snoring and sleep apnea wasn’t immediately obvious.
I Live Alone; How Can I Know Sleep Apnea Is A Problem?
Sleep apnea has a major impact on your sleep, but it has an even greater impact on your day when you’re awake. If you live alone, look for the following symptoms and signs:
Frequent Daytime Sleepiness or Fatigue
Everyone feels tired during the day at one point or another. However, sleep apnea sufferers feel tired during the day all the time. Even after a full night’s sleep, a person with sleep apnea wakes up feeling unrested.
If you have sleep apnea, you may have a tendency to nod off in the middle of the day, even in places where falling asleep isn’t exactly appropriate (for example, at work) or places where falling asleep can be very dangerous (behind the wheel, or while operating heavy machinery). If this has happened to you frequently, you should seek evaluation immediately. Your next “unplanned nap” could be your last if it happens while you’re driving.
Impairment of Cognitive Function
Sleep apnea can impair cognitive function. That means you regularly find it difficult to think, or even to accomplish familiar and routine tasks. You may also have increased difficulty with paying attention.
In this way, sleep apnea can have a major impact on the quality of your life. Sleep apnea sufferers often report that prior to their diagnosis they (or someone else, usually an employer) observed a drop in job performance that couldn’t be explained.
Sleep apnea can effect your brain significantly. Those brief moments at night when you stop breathing don’t have much of an effect individually, but over time, the cumulative effect starves your body and your brain of the oxygen they need to function.
Insomnia is common among sleep apnea sufferers. Sleep apnea may cause physical symptoms: frequent headaches, dry mouth, and a sore throat in the morning are all indicators that something is wrong.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are actually two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is by far the most common type; the other type, Central Sleep Apnea is comparatively rare, although if you’ve had a stroke or heart attack, your risk for developing central sleep apnea is somewhat increased.
In both types of the disorder, the primary feature is the repeated cessation of breath during sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is relatively uncommon (comprising only around 15% of sleep apnea diagnoses) and can only be repaired surgically. Central sleep apnea happens because the muscles that are responsible for your respiration aren’t getting signals from your brain like they should. It’s similar to trying to call someone on a bad telephone line; the message is there, but it is garbled and cuts out frequently.
If it is determined that you have central sleep apnea, we can help connect you to a sleep specialist who can help.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and of those, 80% have obstructive sleep apnea (and most cases are undiagnosed).
Where central sleep apnea is caused by brain signals that don’t reach where they need to go, obstructive sleep apnea is much more “mechanical” in nature. Obstructive sleep apnea is so-called because the cessation of breathing is caused by an obstruction in the airway. The obstruction is your tongue. While you sleep, your tongue falls back on to your soft palate, blocking the flow of air into your lungs.
This problem can be fixed by physically keeping the airway open; your dentist can provide you with a specially designed, custom oral appliance (similar in many ways to a mouthguard) that will keep your tongue and other oral tissues in place, stopping the obstruction and maintaining proper airflow. Many sleep apnea patients prefer oral appliances to CPAP, which requires the use of an uncomfortable mask and a loud air compressor.
Not Sleeping Well?
If you have noticed the symptoms above, you should call and make an appointment immediately. Sleep apnea can be stopped, and the sooner you do something about it the faster you’ll see a marked improvement in the quality of your life.
Call now! Dial Really Smile at 317-451-4050, or click here for our handy online appointment form.