The Silent Partner: How Sleep Apnea Can Impede Your Daily Life

It's time to stop sleep apnea.

Do you wake up tired in the morning? Are you struggling to stay focused at work or at school? Have you ever driven somewhere and then wondered how you got there? Do you snore? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there is a chance that you are suffering from sleep apnea. And if that’s the case, you’re not alone. 

It turns out that an estimated 39 million people in the U.S. struggle with the effects of sleep apnea. And, like you, they understand how much it can impede your daily life.

What is sleep apnea?

If you’re not familiar with sleep apnea, let’s provide you with a brief definition. Imagine trying to breathe through a straw while someone occasionally pinches it closed. That’s somewhat what sleep apnea feels like. Your body wants to breathe, but for some reason, it just can’t do it consistently while you’re asleep. This isn’t just a bad night’s sleep—it’s a sign of something more serious.

Sleep apnea is a condition that can sneak up on you, making it hard to catch. It’s like a silent alarm that goes off every night, but only your body hears it. It’s when your breathing pauses or becomes very shallow as you sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and happen many times an hour. After each pause, normal breathing usually starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. But you might not even know it’s happening.

Types of Sleep Apnea

The Mayo Clinic explains that there are three main types of sleep apnea, each with its own twist on the problem:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is the most common type. It happens when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA): This type is less common and occurs when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea: Complex sleep apnea occurs when someone with OSA is treated with a CPAP machine and develops CSA.

Common Symptoms and Causes

Many people don’t realize they have sleep apnea. Why? Because its symptoms mimic those of just being overly tired or stressed out. Here’s a simple way to spot the signs:

  • Loud snoring: Like a freight train rumbling through your bedroom.
  • Taking breaks from breathing: You might not notice, but someone else might see that you stop breathing in your sleep.
  • Gasping for air: Much like surfacing after being underwater too long.
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat: As if you’ve been breathing through your mouth all night.
  • Morning headaches: Like after wearing a too-tight hat all night.
  • Trouble staying asleep: Tossing and turning, never finding that sweet sleep spot.
  • Feeling sleepy during the day: Even if you slept (or thought you slept) seven to eight hours.
  • Difficulty focusing: When your brain feels foggy.
  • Irritability: Everyone and everything just annoys you more than usual.

Why sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed.

With all these symptoms, you might wonder how sleep apnea often goes unnoticed, and the answer is that most of these signs happen while you’re asleep. You might not know you snore loudly or stop breathing unless someone else tells you. Plus, feeling tired during the day can easily be brushed off as just poor sleep or too much work.

The impact of sleep apnea on your social life.

As you can imagine (or perhaps you’ve started experiencing this yourself), sleep apnea can have serious repercussions on your social life. If you are feeling tired, moody, and irritable all the time, it can impact how others interact with you, and you with them. Communication can be negatively impacted, and some people may choose to keep away, as you’re no longer the fun or happy person you once were.

And the truth is, we need positive human interactions as part of our daily lives. Interacting with people can trigger happy emotions when those endorphins start to flow. The result is that good feeling that we experience when we get to see the people we care about most.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Thankfully, there is treatment for sleep-disordered breathing. Here are some of the most tried and true methods that can help get you on a path to better sleep and more positive social interactions.

Lifestyle Changes

One of the best approaches to managing sleep apnea involves making lifestyle adjustments. Shedding extra pounds can significantly reduce the severity of symptoms, as excess weight often exacerbates breathing difficulties. 

Steering clear of alcohol before hitting the sack can also help, as it relaxes throat muscles, potentially blocking airways. Additionally, quitting smoking can improve overall respiratory health, reducing some of the challenges brought on by sleep apnea.

Medical Treatments

Medical interventions can prove highly effective for those needing more than lifestyle adjustments. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are common approaches and ensure airways stay open throughout the night. 

However, some people (and their sleep partners) struggle to sleep due to the noise of a CPAP. Sleep appliances, such as occlusal splints or nightguards can reposition the jaw or tongue to prevent airway blockage. In more severe cases, surgical options are explored to remove obstructions or correct anatomical irregularities, offering a more permanent solution.

Professional Help

Engaging with medical professionals can help address both the symptoms and the root cause of sleep apnea. This collaborative approach enhances health and can improve relationship dynamics by reducing the strain sleep disorders often place on social interactions. 

Your dentist in Edwardsville, IL, can help with sleep apnea treatment.

If your primary care physician has diagnosed you with sleep apnea, your dentist at Hite Family Dentistry can help. Better sleep can be yours with the use of a nightguard designed to keep your airway from being blocked while you are at rest. 
Request an appointment today. Sleep better tomorrow.