2 Small Signs of Sleep Apnea That Aren’t Small At All

Signs of sleep apnea

When many patients hear the term sleep apnea, they think of a disorder that occurs when you sleep, causing breathing to stop and start. And that’s true; sleep apnea does just that, but it can also cause death when a patient’s breathing is not frequent enough to create immediate tissue ischemia. This leads to tissue death resulting from lack of oxygen in the heart or brain and can cause a stroke or fatal heart attack. But sleep apnea is even more deadly than you realize, and not in the way you may think.

Don’t ignore these signs of sleep apnea.

Before we get into these two small but dangerous signs of sleep apnea, let’s review the different types of sleep apnea, and the typical signs and symptoms. There are three main classifications of sleep apnea.

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common and occurs when the throat muscles relax, blocking air from flowing into the lungs.
  2. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the muscles that control breathing do not receive the proper signals from the brain.
  3. Complex sleep apnea occurs when someone with CSA progresses to OSA and requires medical intervention.

Typically, patients with sleep apnea will experience one or more of the following symptoms.

  • Gasping for air while sleeping
  • Hypersomnia (daytime drowsiness)
  • Inability to pay attention while awake
  • Insomnia (difficulty staying asleep)
  • Irritability
  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headache
  • Waking up with a dry mouth
  • Sleep partner says you stop breathing during sleep (one in four men suffer from sleep apnea)

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it is important to visit your doctor to see if sleep apnea is the culprit. And, once you receive a diagnosis of sleep apnea from your doctor, your dentist can help by prescribing an oral appliance. But before we dive into the treatments for sleep apnea, let’s discuss the two deadliest signs of the illness.

These sleep apnea signs can be dangerous, if not deadly.

Though none of the signs of sleep apnea should be ignored, if you are experiencing one of the following, you must contact your doctor right away.

1. Sleepiness While Driving

Each year, drowsy driving accounts for about 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). If you are experiencing sleepiness when you drive, it could be a sign or symptom of sleep apnea. If you feel sleepy every time you drive, you’re more likely to drive when you’re fatigued too, because it might seem normal. But, as you can see from the statistics mentioned above, driving when tired can be deadly.

Thankfully, your doctor or dentist can treat this condition to help you sleep better. So, before you get in the car again when you are drowsy, give your doctor a call and phone a friend to take you to your appointment. In the meantime, don’t drive when you are sleepy.

2. Frequent Dry Mouth Upon Waking

Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat from time to time isn’t all that uncommon. But when it happens regularly, especially if you are drinking enough fluids during the day and the moisture levels in your home are reading as normal, it can indicate a more severe health issue. Dry mouth is a medical problem referred to as xerostomia. This said, it might not seem like that big of a deal if you’re sleeping with your mouth open, but it’s a major red flag that you’re not breathing properly while sleeping. 

Our bodies are designed for us to breathe through our noses, even when we are sleeping. But patients with sleep apnea may need to breathe through their mouths to get more oxygen. Of course, not all open-mouth breathing is caused by sleep apnea. It could be nasal deviation, congestion, or allergies. But, if your bed partner is telling you you are sleeping through your mouth and you seem to have a chronic dry mouth, it is vital to check with your doctor.

Get Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Now that you understand the signs of sleep apnea, let’s discuss the most common treatment methods and how your Laurel Manor Dental office can help. After all, sleep apnea is a serious condition that needs to be treated. With the right treatment, side effects can improve significantly. 

1. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

If your doctor has diagnosed you with OSA, they may recommend the use of a CPAP machine that provides air pressure through a mask while you are sleeping. The air pressure delivered via the machine is greater than what you naturally take in on your own and is just enough to keep your airway open to help prevent snoring and apnea.

2. Bilevel-Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)

In some cases, your doctor will recommend a BiPap machine instead of the CPAP. With a BiPap machine, patients wear either a sleep apnea mask or nasal plugs that are connected to a ventilator, which supplies pressurized air into the airways. A BiPap is different from a CPAP because you receive more air when you breathe in than when you are breathing out. With a CPAP, the rate of airflow is consistent (continuous).

3. Oral Appliances

Occasionally, your doctor may refer you for oral appliance therapy. Oral devices open your throat by drawing your jaw forward. These sleep apnea oral appliances are often used to help with mild OSA and snoring. Though a CPAP may be more effective, there are occasions when patients find oral appliances easier to use (and less intrusive to their sleep partner).

Let the team at Laurel Manor help you treat the signs of sleep apnea.

Let’s face it; you need your sleep. Lack of sleep can take a toll on your mental outlook and, as we demonstrated earlier, can even be deadly. Don’t let sleep apnea cause you to lose sleep. See your doctor for a diagnosis, and request an appointment with our office if you need help with an oral appliance for your OSA. Let’s help you get a better night’s sleep.

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