You wake up feeling as tired as when you went to bed. Your head is throbbing, your mouth is dry and your spouse looks ready to strangle you.
It may sound like we’re describing the classic morning after an especially memorable night out. Unfortunately, that’s not the reason behind this very regrettable morning – suffering from sleep apnea the night before is the far less appealing culprit.
Sleep apnea can be quite serious, but working with your doctor, we can help put an end to your suffering (as well as your loved one’s) with the help of a simple dental device.
But before we can help, you have to realize you have it. After all, you’re asleep – how can you tell it’s sleep apnea that’s troubling you?
Your first clue
We did mention that your special someone didn’t wake up feeling so special. The traditional morning smile was replaced with a morning snarl. And forget that good morning kiss. That’s because they’ve endured a sleepless night themselves.
They can probably clue you in regarding sleep apnea, due to:
You’re loved one’s lack of morning cheer could be triggered by sleeping next to a chronic snorer. We’re talking every night, all the time, with the volume continuously cranked up to “high.”
That’s enough to make anyone a little grumpy. And here’s what may make you a little grumpy – the snore test is not fail-safe. Many snorers don’t have sleep apnea. And some people with sleep apnea don’t snore.
Gasping for air
This has nothing to do with your spouse using a pillow to silence your snoring once and for all. There are laws against that kind of thing.
Instead, this describes an obstructive sleep apnea event. During these events, which can take place between five and 30 times an hour, the fatty tissues of the throat or tongue become relaxed, causing them to fall back into your airways. This dangerously restricts airflow, which can make sleep apnea so dangerous.
The body being the amazing machine it is; this potentially fatal occurrence seldom proves fatal. The oxygen deprivation alerts the brain to awaken itself. While the rest of your body slumbers, the brain then jumpstarts your respiratory system.
While all this happened without awakening you, your loved one may have caught the entire process firsthand. No one wants to hear the person they love gasping for air in the middle of the night.
But I sleep alone
For those crawling under the sheets solo, detecting sleep apnea can be more challenging.
Challenging, but not impossible.
I just need a nap!
Everyone occasionally craves a nap during the day, but for sleep apnea sufferers it can be an everyday occurrence. If your constantly feeling drowsy throughout the day, while at work or even behind the wheel, this could be a warning sign of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). Obstructive sleep apnea triggers interrupts restful sleep patterns throughout the night, resulting in EDS.
A pounding headache
While no one likes to awaken with a headache, for sleep apnea sufferers who sleep alone, that headache could turn out to be a lifesaver. The headaches, caused by oxygen deprivation due to multiple obstructive sleep apnea events the night before, along with constant EDS, are usually the symptoms solo sleepers notice first.
Depression, Irritability and Mood Swings
A lack of restful sleep wages war on the body’s physical health, but it also can impact an individual’s mental health as well. Sleep apnea sufferers don’t get to experience the refreshment that comes from a healthy night’s sleep. While the individual may not realize their sleep wasn’t sound, the body definitely does, and depression, irritability and mood swings can often result.
If you spot these warning signs, please see your doctor or dentist immediately. The sooner sleep apnea is diagnosed, the sooner you (and maybe a loved one) can rest peacefully!
Changing Lives, One Smile at a Time
Dr. Randall Burba is an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry accredited dentist, practicing in Salem, Massachusetts. He considers himself an artist–with teeth and beyond! He often paints, draws and has a passion for woodworking.