Though it sometimes seems like sleep is an absent part of each day, those inactive hours of suspended consciousness actually play a huge role in your health. Sleeping protects your mental health, physical health, and overall quality of life. It gives you energy, helps you focus, supports your immune system, promotes healthy development during adolescence, affects your body’s balance of hormones, aids your heart health . . . Need I go on? But for those who suffer from sleep apnea, high-quality sleep can be hard to come by. Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by brief, repeated interruptions to sleep, and people who have it are often sleep deprived as a result. Review sleep apnea signs and symptoms if you suspect you could be one of the 18 million American adults who suffer from this condition.
Sleep Apnea Signs and Symptoms
Sleep apnea signs generally revolve around snoring or sleep deprivation. Watch out for these symptoms if you suspect that you or a loved one has sleep apnea:
- Chronic snoring
- Teeth grinding
- Waking with a dry mouth, sore throat, or headache
- Jaw pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sexual dysfunction
- Learning and memory difficulties
When sleep apnea is left untreated, other symptoms may arise. These include the following:
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Congestive heart failure
- Cardiac arrhythmia
The Causes of Sleep Apnea
The most common cause of sleep apnea in adults is excess weight and obesity, which affect the soft tissue of the mouth and throat. When asleep, the throat and tongue relax, blocking the airway. Other times, a person’s anatomy causes them to have sleep apnea. For example, a narrow throat, a thick neck, and a round head can be risk factors. Other possible causes include hypothyroidism, excessive production of growth hormones, allergies, a deviated septum, taking sedatives, smoking, excessive alcohol use, and other medical conditions.
Your oral health can be related to sleep apnea as well. If you grind your teeth at night, your tense jaw and the grinding motion may send a message to your brain that you need to wake up. In this case, a night guard may help by reducing teeth grinding and the resulting sleep apnea.
In addition, obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles “over relax” and block proper airflow, may be related to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Commonly known as TMD, these disorders affect the joint that attaches your lower jaw to the temporal bone of your head (allowing you to chew, swallow, and yawn). When the jaw is misaligned, the positions of the teeth and tongue also become misaligned, which may block your airway as you sleep. Plus, teeth grinding is actually a symptom of a TMD! So all three of these disorders may impact your health and your sleep if they go untreated.
Treating Sleep Apnea
If you’ve noticed any symptoms or signs of sleep apnea, contact your doctor or dentist. If he or she suspects that you suffer from sleep apnea, it is typically recommended that you undergo a sleep study. This will confirm that you do (or reveal that you do not) have sleep apnea and provide your doctor with a little more information regarding your specific experience. Your doctor will then recommend a treatment based on the cause of your sleep apnea.
Are you suffering from teeth grinding, TMD, and/or sleep apnea? If you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist in Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or request an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!