Obstructive sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed, though many people suffer every day with chronic exhaustion from interrupted sleep. Sleep apnea interferes with a person’s sleep so frequently that the body partially awakens to remind itself to begin breathing again. This condition makes it impossible to fall into restorative deep sleep. It’s easy to assume that your body is simply tired because of, say, stress or caring for a newborn. But sleep apnea is often the culprit.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is not the same for every person and the causes of this affliction can vary. Some of the most common risk factors for sleep apnea can include:
- Anatomy: If you have an enlarged tongue, narrow throat, or excess tongue and throat tissues, you could develop sleep apnea.
- Enlarged tonsils: If you didn’t have your tonsils or adenoids removed or addressed as a child, they could come back to plague you as an adult, developing into obstructive sleep apnea.
- Obesity: Overweight people are more likely to have excess fatty tissues in their neck and throat which can obstruct breathing, especially during sleep.
- Smoking: The inflammation in your air passages caused by smoking can interfere with proper airflow during sleep.
- Age: Muscle tone disappears with age, and that can include muscles in your throat. It’s impossible to tone and condition your throat muscles, and this weakening could cause the muscles to collapse more than they should during sleep.
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Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Maybe your spouse complains about your obnoxiously loud snoring. Maybe you’re overly tired, for no apparent reason. Don’t just chalk these things up to getting older, working too hard, or simple genetics. Here are some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea that can easily be mistaken for other conditions:
- Constant daytime exhaustion
- Loud snoring
- Gasping or choking in your sleep
- Morning headaches
- Mood swings
- Memory problems
- Dry mouth
Some of these symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea can also impact your overall oral health. For example, constant dry mouth creates a breeding ground for bacteria, leading to more cavities and potential for gum disease. Sleep bruxism, which is connected with sleep apnea, is the grinding of teeth during the night. This problem can create worn teeth, cracked teeth, and even gum recession.
Keep in mind too, however, that not every sleep apnea sufferer snores. So, while you may think of snoring as one of the biggest clues of sleep apnea, do not be deceived. If you and your doctor have ruled out every other potential cause of excessive fatigue, irritability, and aches and pains, you need your Johns Creek dentist to determine whether sleep apnea is to blame for your exhaustion.
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Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea mouth guards are customized to fit over your upper and lower teeth. This treatment is intended to realign the position of your tongue and jaw, keeping the airways open so you can maintain normal breathing patterns during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is often considered a structural problem, which makes an oral appliance a successful treatment for the affliction.
Sleep apnea can look different from person to person, with causes and symptoms varying greatly. If you suspect that obstructive sleep apnea is interrupting your ability to rest soundly, contact Dr. Mitul Patel at Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Johns Creek for a consultation.