The Hidden Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is more than a bad night

A good night’s rest? Not with sleep apnea.

At a certain time of night, many of us go to bed to get some sleep without a second thought, but in reality, some of us stop breathing in our sleep up to hundreds of times per night and have no clue. How does this happen, and yet we wake up in the morning, alive, breathing, and seemingly fine? 

Well, when you fall asleep, the muscles in your upper airway relax. This is normal; however, for some people, their airway can completely collapse and result in a partial or complete blockage of air. Their body then sends a message to their brain saying “Breathe!” and their sleep cycle is disrupted just enough to wake up that part of their brain. 

Their airway opens, they get some air, fall back asleep, and the cycle starts all over again. If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may find yourself waking up foggy-brained. No wonder! All night long, your brain was constantly partially waking you up to breathe, so you never had the chance to get a nice, deep sleep. 

What can happen to the body if this goes on and on for years?

The Long-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation 

You’ve probably experienced it before, either from jet lag or pulling an all-nighter: disorientation, skewed hunger/fullness cues, exhaustion, andmind-numbing tiredness. Perhaps you felt like you could just nod off to sleep at any second. 

When you’ve “slept” for eight hours but in reality only got a partial night’s sleep, you can experience the same thing. Depression and anxiety are other common side effects, but as it goes on, the effects of chronic sleep deprivation can start to take their toll on your physical health.

You’re not getting enough oxygen. 

If the effects of sleep deprivation don’t concern you enough, consider this. Everyone’s blood oxygen saturation levels drop a little bit while they sleep, but for the most part, they tend to stay at or above 90%. When you stop breathing during a sleep apnea event, your oxygen levels can dip into the 80s, 70s, or even lower. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies will wake us up and tell us to breathe?

Consider, though, how these sudden dips in oxygen saturation, combined with sleep deprivation, put tremendous stress on the body and cardiovascular system. If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, you’re at a higher risk of developing other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and heart attack.

Sleep apnea is more common than you think.

Anyone, regardless of gender, age, or body size, can be affected by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea affects millions of Americans, yet many remain undiagnosed. Why’s that? It may feel like a lot of work to get a sleep study done, or the thought of treatment may seem overwhelming. It is! But don’t let that stop you. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that needs treatment, and we’re here to help. How should you know if you’re at risk or not?

Red Flag #1: Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Do you fall asleep randomly and easily when you get a chance to sit down, read a book, or watch TV? Do you need to take a midmorning nap? Do you feel fatigued all the time and have a hard time concentrating on your work? 

Excessive daytime sleepiness can be extremely disruptive to your normal routine and work life. One of the huge risks of this abnormal sleepiness comes when a person  drives. If you have sleep apnea, you’re more likely to be the driver in a motor vehicle accident.

Red Flag #2: Snoring and Restless Sleeping

Does your partner nudge you in bed and tell you that your snoring is bothering them? When the airway partially collapses, snoring occurs. You can have sleep apnea and not snore though. Some people wake up gasping for air, or their brains wake them up just enough to get some air, but they don’t remember it in the morning. You may feel like you slept well all night, but you might be suffering from sleep apnea.

Treatment is key.

That’s the bottom line. The goal of obstructive sleep apnea treatment is to keep the airway open at night. There are different treatments available, and all of them have the same end goal in mind.

CPAP, for example, is a common therapy for obstructive sleep apnea. It works by blowing a continuous pressure of air in your nose and mouth to hold your airway open and keep it from collapsing. 

While CPAP therapy works well for those who need it and can adjust to it, many people have a hard time adjusting to wearing a mask at night. Studies show that mild to moderate sleep apnea can often be adequately treated with a custom oral device that you wear at night. Instead of blowing air to hold your airway open, this appliance works by gently pulling your lower jaw forward to keep the muscles in the back of your airway from collapsing. The nightguard is shown to be easier to get used to than a CPAP machine. 

Here at the Tooth Doc, we can evaluate you for sleep apnea and help you determine which type of treatment you need. If you are a candidate for a custom nightguard, we can provide that for you. Let’s tackle sleep apnea so you can get the rest you deserve!