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What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Dental OfficeSleep apnea is the result of not getting enough oxygen while you are asleep. These brief interruptions in oxygen availability can cause serious problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. While not necessarily dangerous, among the most common sleep apnea symptoms is loud snoring, which can prevent restful sleep for the person snoring as well as any companion sharing their bed.

There are quite a few sleep apnea symptoms, and not every person will have every symptom. If you do have any of the sleep apnea symptoms listed below, talk to your doctor and dentist about possible treatment options. Each person can have their own unique combination of sleep apnea symptoms.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

• Headaches upon waking
• Heavy snoring
• Tiredness or sleepiness during the day
• Irritability
• Weight gain or a slow metabolism
• Acid reflux
• Dry mouth
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Depression
• Severe anxiety
• Difficulty concentrating
• Poor short term memory
• Severe anxiety
• Intellectual deterioration
• Problems with school work or job performance
• Restless sleeping and frequently changing positions
• Impotence or decreased interest in sex
• Mood swings
• Difficulty breathing through the nose
• Insomnia
• Gasping for air or choking sensation that wakes you up

If you have sleep apnea symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor, as sleep apnea can contribute to poor performance at work, falling asleep at the wheel while driving, and underachievement. You're also at greater risk of heart disease and hypertension.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The most common type of apnea is referred to as "obstructive sleep apnea" because (obviously!) something is obstructing the airway. This is usually either the soft palate tissue at the back of the throat, the uvula, enlarged tonsils or adenoids or some combination of these factors. You're more likely to develop obstructive apnea if you are obese, over the age of 40, or have certain other risk factors such as allergies. Anyone, however, can develop sleep apnea. There are several contributing factors that may predispose certain individuals to apnea, including:

• Sudden or excessive weight gain
• Growing older
• Being male (Sorry, guys!)
• Not getting enough sleep or sleeping irregularly
• High blood pressure
• Allergies, particularly respiratory allergies
• Nasal obstructions such as a deviated septum or swollen tonsils
• Snoring
• Immune system problems
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Smoking
• Genetics
• Acid reflux or heartburn

You can reduce your risk of developing sleep apnea symptoms by maintaining a health lifestyle, getting plenty of sleep, and getting regular medical and dental check-ups.

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