Changes in your airway while sleeping may result in sleep apnea and are often associated with snoring. If your airway narrows while you sleep, it results in limited airflow when you breathe, causing your soft tissue to vibrate (snoring), or your airway to collapse, preventing you from breathing properly. This happens many times throughout your sleep cycle and can cause symptoms such as headaches, bruxism (teeth-grinding), and feeling exhausted when you wake up.

Worldwide, 5-10% of people experience sleep apnea. It can occur at any age but is most common in people over the age of 50 and those who may have other underlying medical conditions. 

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two different types of sleep apnea—obstructive and central. Each one has its own unique symptoms, and they vary slightly in how they impact people. 

  • Obstructive is the result from something blocking your airway, such as the anatomical structure of your head and neck or excess body weight. 
  • Central occurs when your brain doesn’t properly control your breathing, causing gaps in breath and poor sleep quality.

Many people may not know they have a problem until they notice uncomfortable symptoms that affect them during waking hours.


Eight Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Many people may not know they have a problem until they notice uncomfortable symptoms that affect them during waking hours.

Symptoms of sleep apnea may be overlooked or chalked up to some other medical condition. In other cases, you may not realize there is an issue until your spouse or partner mentions you snore or seem to be gasping for breath while you sleep. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Snoring
  • Waking up with a very dry mouth 
  • Sore teeth
  • Sore jaw
  • Insomnia/difficulty staying asleep 
  • Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
  • Irritability or moodiness

Factors such as age, genetics, anatomy and partaking in a generally unhealthy lifestyle increase your risk of developing sleep apnea.

unhealthy diet

What Causes this Condition? 

Certain lifestyle and genetic factors that may increase your risk, including:

  • Age. Age is the most significant factor in developing either form of sleep apnea, and it most often affects adults over age 50.
  • Anatomy. Large neck circumference, a narrow airway, or differences in the structure of your head and neck may contribute to developing the disorder. 
  • Genetics. If you have family members who have sleep apnea, this may increase your risk as well. If you’re not sure, ask if anyone else in your family has it to gauge your risk, and then talk with your doctor or dentist.
  • Allergies. Allergies can cause obstructed nasal passages, which affects your ability to breathe well. 
  • Smoking. Smokers are 3 times more likely than non-smokers to not only have an increased risk of sleep apnea but other serious health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, excess fluid retention, and inflammation of the chest and airway. 
  • Opioid use. The use of opioids to treat pain and other conditions can contribute to the development of sleep apnea. Most commonly, central sleep apnea occurs during opioid use, which affects the way your brain processes breathing.  
  • Excess weight. Obesity also increases your risk and your risk of other health conditions, too. Maintaining a healthy weight for your height and body type is key to preventing health complications while also boosting your confidence. 

When sleep apnea occurs, the lack of oxygen causes a reflex that wakes you up, interrupting your sleep cycle multiple times a night.

healthy seniors practicing yoga

Is Sleep Apnea Preventable?

There are many natural ways to prevent the disorder, such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Be sure your BMI is appropriate according to your height, sex, and age. If you’re unsure what a healthy weight is, talk with your doctor or look at this BMI chart
  • Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Include leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains in your meals. Always be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a new diet.
  • Exercising regularly. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to maintain weight and promote health and fitness. This equates to about 22 minutes per day for 7 days or 30 minutes a day for 5 days. Set a goal for yourself, and consult with your doctor before starting.
  • Staying hydrated. Water is always best. Not only are our bodies made up of roughly 60% water, but water also helps flush out toxins, promotes clear skin, and may even help you lose weight and feel energized. 
  • Wearing your night guard. Many people who have sleep apnea also grind their teeth, which can lead to cracks, breakage, headaches, and general discomfort. In cases where teeth grinding is observed, your Black Mountain holistic dentist or orthodontist may prescribe you a night guard to prevent further damage to your teeth. 

awake at night

What Are The Risks of Waking Up at Night?

When sleep apnea occurs, the lack of oxygen causes a reflex that wakes you up, interrupting your sleep cycle multiple times a night.

Other risks are:

  • Poor sleep quality. Sleep is vital to your overall health, from your stress responses to your metabolic function. Not sleeping well every once in a while is not usually cause for concern. However, chronically poor sleep can have detrimental health effects.
  • Increased likelihood of heart disease. There is a link between sleep apnea and these risk factors, but there is some debate as to whether it’s a direct risk or an associated risk due to another common risk factor for the disorder—obesity.
  • High blood pressure. The constant stopping and starting of breathing causes additional stress and strain on your heart which can contribute to developing high blood pressure and increase the incidence of having a stroke.
  • Bruxism. Also known as teeth-grinding, bruxism can cause various dental problems that could result in uncomfortable symptoms such as toothaches, or in severe cases, broken or cracked teeth.
  • Increased depression and/or anxiety. Because of how sleep apnea affects and interrupts the natural sleep cycle, the risk for worsening or newly diagnosed depression and anxiety increases.
  • Reduced immune system function. The link between the quality of sleep and your general immunity to viruses, bacteria, and illnesses is well documented. For example, when you’re asleep, your body releases proteins known as cytokines. As a result, certain cytokines have to increase when your body is fighting off an infection. When you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, fewer of these protective proteins are created, therefore increasing the chance you will become sick if you are exposed to an illness. 

Finally, if you think you may have sleep apnea, consult with your dentist for further testing and treatment. 

Schedule an Appointment With Anders Dental!

At Anders Dental, we believe that a healthy outside starts from the inside. Schedule an appointment with us by calling 828-669-8781, today!