July 30, 2019
Every morning you wake up with a headache and a sore throat. Throughout the day you feel tired and irritable. Most concerning than all, a couple of times you’ve woken up during the night gasping for air. What’s going on? You could be experiencing a dangerous disorder called sleep apnea, and as long as you have it, you won’t be able to get a good night’s rest – and your health could suffer for it.
What is Sleep Apnea?
A person with sleep apnea will repeatedly stop breathing during the night. When this happens, they’ll wake up very briefly to get some air before falling asleep again; this can happen dozens or even hundreds of times a night, but each episode is so short you probably won’t even remember most of them. It’s usually caused by the airway being physically blocked by relaxed tissue (obstructive sleep apnea), but occasionally the brain will fail to send the signal for the rest of the body to keep breathing (central sleep apnea).
Why is Sleep Apnea So Dangerous?
Sleep is a cycle, and it’s during the later stages that your body has a chance to replenish its energy and repair itself. If sleep apnea keeps waking you up, you won’t spend enough time in these vital stages. As a result, you’ll be excessively drowsy during the day and might have trouble focusing – which is dangerous when you’re driving or if you work with heavy machinery!
The sudden drops of oxygen levels in the blood every night can also cause life-threatening issues over time. Your blood pressure will rise, and your cardiovascular system will become strained. You could suffer from recurrent heart attacks, strokes and abnormal heartbeats, all of which can result in death.
Other possible risks of sleep apnea include developing type 2 diabetes and liver problems.
How Will I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?
Obviously, it can be hard to know firsthand if you’re suffering from breathing problems at night, but your partner or a roommate might notice that you’re snoring loudly and periodically gasping for air during the night. There are many symptoms you might experience – waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat, suffering from morning headaches, insomnia, excessive sleepiness, irritability – but the only way to know for sure is to have a sleep study performed by an expert.
And If I Do Have Sleep Apnea?
Once you’ve gotten a diagnosis, you’ll be able to get sleep apnea treatment. This might take the form of an oral appliance that helps keep the airway open or a CPAP machine that pumps a continuous stream of air into your throat.
The most important thing is to get help as soon as possible; the effects of sleep apnea will only get worse the longer they go unaddressed. Seek treatment today so that you can get a good night’s rest tonight!
About the Author
Dr. Kent Smith has spent over 20 years of his career researching and developing techniques to deal with sleep apnea. He is a Diplomate of the American Boards of Dental Sleep Medicine as well as American Sleep and Breathing Academy. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a sleeping disorder, contact his practice, Sleep Dallas, via his website or by calling (844) 409-4657.