Although snoring and gagging during the night are two classic signs that you might have the sleep disorder called sleep apnea, they’re not the only symptoms. Daytime sleepiness, insomnia, forgetfulness, or even a dry or sore throat could also mean that you inadvertently stop sleeping at night, depriving your brain and other organs of essential oxygen.
The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea because it’s caused by your own tissues — such as your tongue or a thick neck — that block the healthy flow of oxygen through your airway while you sleep. A more rare kind, central sleep apnea, occurs when your brain “forgets” to tell your body to breathe during sleep. You could also have a mixture of obstructive and central sleep apneas.
Dr. Bolling encourages you to get an evaluation for sleep apnea if you have symptoms such as:
- Getting up during the night to urinate
- Waking yourself up by gagging or gasping
- Sore throat in the morning
- Memory problems
- Crankiness or moodiness
- Daytime sleepiness
- Drowsy driving
If you suspect you have sleep apnea or another sleeping disorder, Dr. Bolling examines you to see if your tonsils or neck are overly large for your body type. She may refer you to a sleep clinic to confirm the diagnosis.
Sleep apnea is serious
Though snoring, sore throats, and being cranky might not sound like life-threatening symptoms, daytime sleepiness can lead to accidents, including car crashes. Sleepiness and lack of focus also interfere with your ability to perform well at school or at your job.
The oxygen deprivation caused by the apneas — the pauses in your breathing — also stress your body, triggering a fight-or-flight response that raises your levels of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol in your body leads to inflammation that can cause serious health complications.
Cardiovascular complications that may develop as a consequence of sleep apnea include:
- High blood pressure (HBP)
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart attack
Sleep apnea and inflammation also raise your risk for:
- Metabolic disorders and diabetes
- Pancreatic, renal, and skin cancer
- Kidney disease
- Vision problems, including glaucoma
If you’re pregnant, sleep apnea can raise your risk for complications such as gestational diabetes and gestational HBP. Oxygen deprivation due to sleep apnea also raises the risk for your baby being born underweight.
Most sleep apnea is treatable
Dr. Bolling provides effective treatments for sleep apnea, including a simple oral appliance that unblocks your airways when you sleep. She may also recommend you for a continuous positive airway pressure CPAP machine that ensures a steady stream of oxygen through a mask you wear while sleeping.
In certain cases, she may recommend you for surgery such as septoplasty to correct a deviated nasal septum or other oral surgeries to remove obstructions.
To find out if you have sleep apnea and get effective treatments, call us today or set up an evaluation online.