Indianapolis dental specialists discuss common signs that you have sleep apnea
Most adults know that sleep is important. But, it does more than help us function and prevent us from feeling crabby, proper sleep is also critical for optimal health. When the body is at rest, it can fight infection and repair itself from injury. However, many adults are simply not getting enough sleep. While it’s common to blame stress or a busy lifestyle, sleep apnea is often an underlying cause. The dental specialists at Indianapolis’ Washington Street Dentistry can help identify common signs that you may have sleep apnea and provide solutions to help you sleep better.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea causes the patient to stop breathing many times each night – up to hundreds of times in a single night – due to a blockage of the airway.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea can be hard to diagnose because it looks and feels like many other causes of poor sleep. Following are some of the common signs of sleep apnea:
- Snoring– Many people who snore aren’t aware of it. But if your spouse or partner is telling you that you’re snoring, it might be a sign of sleep apnea. Of course, many who don’t have sleep apnea also experience bouts of snoring due to a cold or poor sleep position, but those with sleep apnea experience chronic, loud, and disruptive snoring.
- Breaks or pauses in breathing– Sleep apnea occurs because the tissue in the throat or the tongue blocks the airway. This causes the individual to stop breathing and oxygen levels to drop. The sleeper will then often startle partially awake, which resets the breathing. You may not notice this happening while you are asleep, but the interruptions still have a deep impact on the quality of your sleep.
- Constant fatigue– While you may have been in bed and asleep for the recommend eight hours, you still feel tired all the time, have difficulty waking, trouble focusing, and significantly low energy levels. This is caused by the poor quality of sleep, and interruptions that occur with sleep apnea.
- Frequent headaches – When a person with sleep apnea experiences an episode, less oxygen travels to the brain. This causes the blood vessels in the brain to expand, which triggers headaches. Headaches that are constant and not attributable to other factors such as eyesight, stress, or illness, are a common sign of sleep apnea.
- High blood pressure– Like headaches, high blood pressure can be triggered by low oxygen levels and expanding and restricting blood vessels.
- Irritability– We all experience irritability from time to time, but if you’re noticing mood swings, an increase in anxiety, or are becoming quick to anger, sleep apnea and poor sleep could cause it.
Solutions for sleep apnea
If you are experiencing some of the above symptoms and believe that sleep apnea could be to blame, it’s important to call your general physician. Often a sleep study will be scheduled to determine the cause.
If sleep apnea is the cause, there are several treatments. One of the most common treatment is a CPAP machine, which forces air into the mouth. However, many patients dislike the machine because it is awkward, loud, uncomfortable, or cumbersome. Dr. Matthew Church and the team at Washington Street Dentistry help patients treat sleep apnea using simple dental appliances. These appliances, which resemble a mouth guard worn by athletes, are worn while sleeping and give patients the opportunity to get a restful night’s sleep. The appliance works by aligning the jaw and holding the tongue in position. Therefore, each appliance must be custom made using impressions provided by the dentist.
This appliance is the least invasive treatment for sleep apnea and is effective so long as the patient continues to wear the appliance every night. With the oral appliance, patients comply better, and typically respond better to treatment.
For more information about sleep apnea, call Washington Street Dentistry at (317) 333-6788.