Many people have obstructive sleep apnea without knowing it. With this condition, your airways close while you’re asleep, often resulting in a telltale snore.
But sleep apnea is more than just a nuisance to the people with whom you share a bed. There are possible dangerous health effects.
Here, our providers at Dental Art of South Bay in Torrance, California, explain more about sleep apnea and offer telltale clues that might suggest you have it.
What is sleep apnea?
There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea is when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to keep you breathing, which is a relatively uncommon disorder.
Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common. It’s also more common among men than women, and the incidence rises as you age.
With obstructive sleep apnea, your throat muscles relax as you sleep, which cuts off your breathing momentarily. Most people with this disorder snore because that’s the sound you make when you suddenly start breathing again. However, it is very possible to have obstructive sleep apnea and not snore.
The risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea worsens as you age, with relatively few young children having the disorder. Other risk factors for developing obstructive sleep apnea include the following:
- Being overweight or obese
- Being a post-menopausal woman
- Family history
- Being male
- Large tonsils
- Having a large neck circumference
- Consuming alcohol before bed
While you can’t always prevent obstructive sleep apnea, you can reduce many of your known risk factors.
The health effects of untreated sleep apnea
If you have untreated obstructive sleep apnea, you may find it fairly difficult to get through the day. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Falling asleep during the day
- Being sleepy while driving
- Memory loss
- Poor concentration
- Lower libido
- Morning headaches
- Waking up with a dry mouth
All of these symptoms are unpleasant. But what’s much more serious are the effects that they have on your body over time.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, untreated severe sleep apnea triples your risk of death. It also decreases your lifespan.
High blood pressure
People with untreated obstructive sleep apnea generally have higher blood pressure than people without the disorder.
Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Your risk of type 2 diabetes also increases when you have obstructive sleep apnea. If you are already diabetic, you may notice that you might need less insulin or medication after your sleep apnea is treated, although you should always make sure that your doctor advises you to decrease any medication.
Increased risk of heart disease
If you don’t regularly get a good night’s sleep, your risk of cardiovascular disease increases. This is partly because your heart works harder when it has to signal your brain to keep breathing while you sleep. Every time you startle awake with a snore, that causes your heart to pump more adrenaline. That can take a toll on your heart health, especially when it happens regularly.
Your dentist can play a major role in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. If you think you have symptoms, don’t wait for a dental cleaning to come see us. Contact the providers at Dental Art of South Bay or request an appointment online.