The Truth About Sleep Apnea: Warning Signs To Watch Out For & How to Protect Your Health

Sleep apnea is the epidemic not enough people are talking about. Experts estimate that nearly 10% of all adults suffer from some form of sleep apnea and that most of these people don’t even know it.

In today’s blog post, we’ll help clear up misinformation surrounding sleep apnea and share how Green Dentistry helps patients with sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing while you’re asleep. It may be caused by an obstruction — typically the walls of the throat collapsing — or misfiring signals in the brain that cause your body to “forget” to breathe. Generally speaking, the former, also known as obstructive sleep apnea, is much more common.

During an episode of sleep apnea your body will wake itself to make sure you breathe again. This can happen dozens or even hundreds of times throughout the night. The result is poor, restless sleep. The worst part is that the periods of wakefulness are often just a few seconds, so you likely won’t even remember them.

S.T.O.P. B.A.N.G.

In today’s post we’ll go into more detail about what causes sleep apnea and who’s most at risk. Keep S.T.O.P. B.A.N.G. in mind. If it sounds like yourself or someone you know, schedule your consult today.

  • Snoring?
  • Tired during the day?
  • Observed choking or gasping while asleep?
  • Pressure – namely high blood pressure?
  • BMI of over 30?
  • Age over 50?
  • Neck size over 16”?
  • Gender? – Men are most commonly affected by sleep apnea

How can sleep apnea affect my life?

Sleep apnea can be very serious. In advanced, untreated cases it can even be fatal as your body is unable to wake itself and start breathing again. However, in most cases the effects of sleep apnea will be seen in:

  • Excessive tiredness throughout the day
  • Weight gain caused by poor sleep and hormone imbalances
  • Unexplained and sudden changes in mood
  • Mental health issues — sleep apnea often causes symptoms like fatigue that are confused with depression
  • Poor performance at work or lack of interest in hobbies
  • Car accidents or other mishaps caused by poor reaction time as a result of lack of sleep

Sleep apnea can be a vicious cycle. Your body never gets the rest it needs. This leads to worse effects on your life which compound to produce even worse sleep quality and more episodes of sleep apnea.

The only way to break the cycle is to recognize sleep apnea, get diagnosed, and begin treatment.

Does sleep apnea affect the rest of my body?

Absolutely it does. When you don’t get the sleep you need, toxins build up in the body, you’re more susceptible to infection and disease, and your overall health suffers. Sleep apnea may cause or worsen:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Diabetic complications and difficulty managing blood sugar. Over 80% of people with
  • Type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea.
  • Acid reflux and heartburn

Did You Know:

Your partner, husband, or wife is much more likely to recognize your sleep apnea than you are. If you’ve been told you snore noisily, take it seriously!

Who’s at risk for sleep apnea?

There are many risk factors that can indicate whether you’re likely to suffer from sleep apnea. The most at-risk groups include:

  • Men over the age of 50
  • Individuals with a neck larger than 16” around
  • Anyone who’s been told they snore
  • Anyone who feels tired or groggy during the day

Take our sleep apnea self-assessment quiz

Review the questions below to see if you’re at a particularly high risk of sleep apnea.

  • Is your BMI greater than 30?
    – Yes
    – No
  • Do you snore?
    – Yes
    – No
  • Do you snore more than 1 or 2 times per month?
    – Yes
    – No
  • Has your snoring ever bothered other people?
    – Yes
    – No
    – Not sure
  • Has anyone noticed that you stop breathing while asleep?
    – Yes
    – No
  • Do you often feel tired or fatigued during the day?
    – Yes
    – No
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
    – Yes
    – No
    – Not sure

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you should speak to a dentist or doctor about sleep apnea. The earlier you recognize your risk, the sooner you can take control of your health and wellness.

Can sleep apnea be treated and cured?

The good news is that sleep apnea is very treatable. In some cases, sleep apnea can be reversed through lifestyle changes like:

  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating healthier

However, some patients may benefit from additional therapies and treatments. In the past, doctors would often recommend invasive and painful surgery designed to realign the jaw and increase the size and stability of the airway. Unfortunately, these surgical treatments produced unpredictable results and were very invasive, painful, and required long recovery times.

Improve your sleep hygiene

If it’s found that you’re not suffering from sleep apnea but you’re still suffering from poor sleep, you may want to improve your “sleep hygiene” by:

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evenings
  • Sleeping in a dark room with no TV’s or phone screens
  • Setting (and sticking to) a reasonable bedtime that allows you to get 8 hours of sleep
  • Keeping your bedroom cool — research shows 60 degrees is ideal for most people
  • Exercising regularly
  • Using a light-based alarm clock to wake yourself naturally

Read more tips for improving your sleep quality.

Can a dentist help with sleep apnea?

Yes! As we’ve talked about in the past, it’s important to remember that the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums is directly connected to the health of the rest of your body.

At Green Dentistry, our sleep apnea treatments include:

  • CPAP Machine – A medical device that uses air pressure to keep your airway open at night.
  • DNA Appliance – A non-invasive alternative to sleep apnea surgery, this device uses gentle vibrational forces that reposition your teeth and increase the size of your airway.

Schedule your sleep apnea consultation

Are you worried that you or a loved one might be suffering from sleep apnea? Early detection and treatment are key. Schedule your sleep apnea consult at Green Dentistry to learn more. We’re here to help!