Obstructive sleep apnea makes it hard to live your best life, but it’s common for patients to suffer for years before they realize the reason for their fatigue. Sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing that jolt the body out of deep, restorative sleep, but most of the time, people have no recollection of this occurring. It’s important to treat sleep apnea, but first it needs to be diagnosed, which means understanding the symptoms.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Unless a partner complains about your snoring or observes pauses in your breathing, you may not notice these telltale signs of sleep apnea on your own. It’s more likely, though, that you might notice that you occasionally wake up feeling like you’re choking or gasping for air. You’ll also experience some combination of the following symptoms:
- Waking up with a sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Never feeling well-rested upon waking, even after 8 hours of sleep
- Persistent fatigue throughout the day
- Difficulty focusing
- Mood disorders, including depression and anxiety
- Trouble concentrating at work or in school
If you have any of these symptoms, we recommend a sleep study or home sleep test to determine if they’re being caused by obstructive sleep apnea so you can have a definitive diagnosis.
Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea
We all need at least eight hours of sleep every night in order to feel and function our best. Sleep restores us physically and mentally, which is why when you’re sleep deprived, you feel lethargic, irritable, and unfocused. Your work performance may decline and even your risk of causing a car accident is higher with untreated sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea also has long-term consequences for your overall health. These include an increased risk of cardiovascular events, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea has been linked to increased blood pressure and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream.
Best Sleep Apnea Treatments
Sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues in the airway relax during sleep, blocking airflow and causing breathing to pause or become shallow. Sleep apnea treatments aim to keep the airway open to prevent this from occurring.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which blow constant air into the throat to keep the airway open throughout the night. While highly effective, some patients find CPAP therapy uncomfortable.
Oral appliance therapy uses a small mouthguard to reposition the lower jaw in such a way that the soft tissues in the airway are engaged, preventing them from relaxing and blocking the flow of air. This is an effective option for mild sleep apnea.
Another solution is surgery to remove excess tissue from the throat or move the lower jaw forward to create more room. Both of these procedures can be performed here at OMA.
Deciding which sleep apnea treatment is best for you depends on your medical needs, preferences, and lifestyle.
Learn More About Sleep Apnea
Do you think you might have obstructive sleep apnea? Contact us today to schedule an appointment for an evaluation.