Sleepless Nights? When to Seek Help for Sleep Problems
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of Americans. It occurs when breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep, causing oxygen levels to drop. If you have certain symptoms or risk factors, it may be time to see a sleep specialist.
Signs You Need to See a Sleep Specialist
Loud snoring regularly is a telltale sign of sleep apnea. This is caused by relaxed throat muscles obstructing the airway. Snoring is often loudest when sleeping on the back.
Gasping or Choking During Sleep
Gasping, choking, or silent pauses in breathing during sleep are other manifestations of apnea events. These occur when the airway fully collapses, cutting off air intake for 10 seconds or longer until the brain triggers a gasp. This disrupted breathing can happen dozens of times per hour during sleep.
Daytime Drowsiness and Fatigue
Daytime drowsiness and fatigue are very common with sleep apnea, even after getting seven to eight hours of sleep. This occurs because sleep is disrupted throughout the night, preventing you from reaching the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep.
Morning headaches upon waking are also a common complaint linked to sleep apnea. They’re known as sleep apnea headaches. These headaches are triggered by oxygen deprivation and sleep fragmentation that occurs throughout the night with untreated apnea. The morning headaches usually improve after being upright and awake for a couple of hours.
Difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, and mood changes like anxiety or irritability can develop over time with untreated sleep apnea. The fragmented sleep and oxygen loss take a toll on the brain’s ability to function optimally.
Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
Several risk factors increase the chances of having sleep apnea:
- Being overweight or obese — excess fat deposits around the neck constrict the airway
- Having a thick or large neck circumference — 17 inches or more in men
- Nasal congestion, deviated septum, or other structural blockages
- High blood pressure, which is aggravated by sleep apnea
If you have some of the above symptoms or risk factors, asking your doctor for a sleep study is recommended. This test also called a polysomnogram, measures your breathing, oxygen levels, heart rate, and movements during sleep. It can confirm if and how severely sleep apnea is occurring.
Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Untreated sleep apnea is linked to potentially serious health complications like:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
The oxygen deprivation and fragmented sleep also impair your performance at work or school and increase the accident risk of driving or doing physical labor while drowsy.
What to Expect at the Sleep Specialist
What can you expect when visiting a sleep specialist? Your initial consultation will involve discussing your medical history, sleep habits, and symptoms in depth. They may ask you to complete a sleep questionnaire or keep a sleep diary before your visit. The doctor may then decide to move forward with a sleep study or other diagnostic testing based on your history.
Once properly diagnosed, the sleep specialist will work with you to determine the best treatment. This may include CPAP therapy to keep the airway open, oral appliances like mouthguards, or surgery in some cases. With consistent treatment, your sleep apnea and related health issues can be properly managed.
Why You Should Choose Dr. Ura
Seeing a sleep medicine specialist, like Dr. Ura, is advised if your symptoms are significantly impacting your daily functioning and quality of life. Our sleep apnea dentist can also help if self-help remedies like sleeping on your side, a CPAP machine, or oral devices are not adequately resolving apnea symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you have sleep apnea without snoring?
Yes, it’s possible to have sleep apnea even if you don’t snore. The breathing pauses and arousal from sleep still occur. Additionally, there are symptoms of sleep apnea besides loud snoring, so be on the lookout.
Can sleep apnea cause insomnia?
Yes, the disrupted sleep from sleep apnea can lead to insomnia symptoms like difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Treating the apnea often leads to reduced insomnia symptoms and better sleep quality.
Why should I see a dentist for sleep apnea instead of a medical doctor?
Dentists receive specialized training in oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea. Dentists who specialize in dental sleep medicine can provide customized oral devices and ongoing adjustments to effectively treat mild to moderate apnea.
What kind of oral appliances do dentists prescribe for sleep apnea?
Common oral devices include mandibular advancement devices (MADs) that shift the jaw forward to open the airway and tongue-retaining devices that keep the tongue from blocking the throat. Your dentist will prescribe the oral appliance that works best for you based on your case.
Take Control of Your Sleep Health
Don’t continue to suffer from poor sleep — take control of your health by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Ura, a dentist trained in sleep medicine. Talk to your Nashua, NH, sleep dentist at (603) 237-1124 to get the quality sleep you need to function at your best all day long.
You can also request more information by filling out our online contact form, and a staff member will get back to you shortly. The Center for Dental Sleep Health welcomes new and returning patients in Nashua and surrounding areas such as Hudson, Merrimack, and Milford, NH.