Is it possible to have sleep apnea and not know it?
And even if you do, so what, right?
Well, not exactly. It is very possible to have sleep apnea and not know it. If you sleep with a partner, they may awaken and hear you gasping for air during the night. But if you sleep alone, you may not know you have it.
A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that while approximately 30 million American adults have obstructive sleep apnea only about 6 million, or 20%, have been properly diagnosed and treated.
You should be concerned if you, or your partner, have sleep apnea and are not receiving treatment for it.
What is Sleep Apnea
The most common form of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. It is a medical condition involving the temporary but repeated stoppage of breathing during sleep. This occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax.
When the muscles in your throat relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. As a result, you can’t get enough air and might gasp or snort for a breath. Your brain senses the lack of oxygen and difficulty breathing. Your brain triggers your brain to wake you up to reopen your airway. This can occur repeatedly through the course of the night, dozens of times each hour. The repeated lack of oxygen, gasping for air and waking up really impacts you from experiencing a deep, restful night sleep.
Health Risks of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Left untreated, sleep apnea can significantly impact your physical and mental health. Some of the complications and impact on your health from sleep apnea can include some or all of the following.
- Heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure
Sudden and repeated stops in oxygen levels while sleeping can strain the entire cardiovascular system, including high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke, and heart failure. The disruption to how your body takes in oxygen makes it difficult for your brain to control how blood flows throughout your body.
Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with obesity, which is also a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Besides obesity contributing to sleep apnea, sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can, in an ongoing unhealthy cycle, lead to further obesity.
Untreated sleep apnea can also contribute to high blood pressure. It can be difficult to control high blood pressure with medication while your sleep apnea goes untreated.
- Type-2 Diabetes
For those with diabetes, sleep apnea can make it more difficult to manage diabetes. From the continual stop and start in breathing, and rise and fall of oxygen levels, there is an increase in carbon dioxide in your blood. As a result, this leads to insulin resistance, an increase in sugar, and the body’s inability to process insulin effectively.
- Daytime Fatigue
The inability to sleep soundly, especially during REM sleep, can negatively impact you during the day. Sleep is needed to provide your body and mind the opportunity to rest and recover. Sleep apnea makes this nearly impossible. As a result, those with sleep apnea can experience extreme drowsiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. These symptoms can impact the ability to think clearly, potentially increasing the risk of operating a motor vehicle or other equipment.
- Surgery Complications
Untreated sleep apnea is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. It increases the risk of airway obstruction, abnormal heart rhythms, and complications during surgery, especially when sedated and lying on your back.
- Mental Health
The impact of obstructive sleep apnea on one’s physical health can also negatively influence one’s mental health. There is an association between depression, anxiety and sleep apnea. In addition to those with untreated sleep apnea experiencing episodes of depression, many individuals who experience treatment-resistant depression, have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea.
Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
A treatment for sleep apnea that many people are most familiar with is a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure and can help people with sleep apnea breathe more easily and regularly every night while they are sleeping.
Unfortunately, many people have a CPAP intolerance or just don’t like sleeping with the machine. Fortunately, there is a less invasive alternative to treat sleep apnea and snoring.
Using the latest in dental technology, an oral appliance, or night guard, can treat obstructive sleep apnea. Following a thorough evaluation by a sleep apnea doctor, a custom oral appliance is made to wear while sleeping. The appliance is fitted over the upper and lower and teeth to move the lower jaw forward and reposition the tongue, soft palate, and hyoid bone. This increases the size of the upper airway and reduces air resistance that leads to sleep apnea and snoring.
Advantages of Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment that fits easily into your lifestyle. Patients like oral appliance therapy because it is:
- Easy to wear
- Convenient for travel
- Easy to care for
Take Care of your Health
To avoid the health risks associated with obstructive sleep apnea and to sleep better, it’s important to be evaluated by a professional sleep expert. If you think you or your partner has sleep apnea, there is the treatment for better health and a great night’s sleep! Contact Bay Area TMJ and Sleep Center at 813-685-6200 for an evaluation.