Snoring is common, but it can also be a red flag.

Snoring is something we’ve all done at some point, but when snoring becomes your new nightly normal, you shouldn’t ignore it. Snoring doesn’t just affect your partner and even other people in your household, it can actually be a symptom of a potentially serious sleep disorder. According to the National Sleep Foundation, roughly 90 million adults experience snoring with an estimated 37 million snoring on a nightly basis. Although there are a number of reasons why someone might snore, it’s no coincidence that about half of chronic snorers have obstructive sleep apnea.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

As described by the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by “an involuntary cessation of breathing” while a person is asleep.

Put simply, sleep apnea makes you stop breathing while you’re asleep, often sporadically and up to hundreds of times in a night. Some individuals may stop breathing for over a minute without even realizing it as the pause in breathing isn’t enough to fully awaken them.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by blocked airways, most often due to the throat muscles relaxing and allowing soft tissues to collapse into the throat. When you think about snoring and how it sounds on the inhale, it’s easy to picture how overly relaxed throat tissues blocking airflow would cause the stereotypical grumbling, grating, roaring sound.  

There are also two other types of sleep apnea—central sleep apnea and mixed sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is uncommon and caused by the brain failing to signal muscles to breathe. In some cases, it’s believed that chronic, untreated OSA itself can cause or exacerbate central sleep apnea. This is known as mixed sleep apnea and is quite rare.

How do I know if I have obstructive sleep apnea?

In many cases, it’s fairly easy to determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea, even before you get a professional evaluation. This is great news as the easier is it to diagnosis a health disorder, the faster you can begin treatment.

Let’s take a look at some of the main symptoms of OSA as well as who might be at a higher risk for developing OSA.

Symptoms of OSA

Snoring is the trademark symptom of OSA, but it’s certainly not the only one. Other signs that you have OSA may not be so obvious and could include:

  • Fatigue and sleepiness during the day, even when you got eight hours of “sleep.”
  • Headaches or migraines, particularly during the morning after waking.
  • Waking up with unusual throat soreness or dry mouth.
  • Mental fog and issues with memory and focus during normal activities/work.
  • Unexplained weight gain despite no major changes in diet or exercise.
  • Randomly waking up in the middle of the night without an obvious cause.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night feeling uneasy or out of breath.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you could very well be experiencing some form of sleep apnea. If you’re snoring and experiencing one or more of these symptoms, chances are very high you’re suffering from undiagnosed OSA.

Risk Factors for OSA

Anyone can develop a sleep apnea disorder, but doctors have found that there are certain risk factors that make an individual more likely to experience it. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Being overweight, especially when accompanied by a thicker neck.
  • A narrow passageway or issues with enlarged tonsils, often genetic.
  • A family history of sleep apnea disorders or chronic snoring.
  • Smoking and the use of alcohol, sedatives, and sleep aids.
  • Allergies and anatomical nasal passages causing chronic congestion.

Men are up to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea compared to women. Sleep apnea is also significantly more likely the older a person gets. Individuals who currently have a heart disorder or have had a stroke are more at risk of developing central sleep apnea.

How to get diagnosed and receive treatment for sleep apnea.

When you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to take action as soon as you can, especially if you’re a high-risk individual. Putting off diagnosis is putting off treatment, and without treatment, you could really harm your health.

Why seeking treatment for sleep apnea is important.

Obstructive sleep apnea and other forms of this disorder aren’t just an inconvenience that causes you to snore—they also negatively affect your quality of sleep.

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue. Studies show links between poor sleep quality and health problems like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, obesity, and a number of other diseases and disorders. Quality sleep also reduces the chances of accidents, irritability, and errors at work, school, and home.

Getting a good night’s sleep means a lot more than just making sure you’re rested and ready for the next day. And getting diagnosed and treated for your OSA is the first step.

Getting Diagnosed and Treated for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Getting diagnosed for obstructive sleep apnea is more straightforward compared to other forms of sleep apnea. You might also be surprised to learn that your dentist is able to evaluate you instead of your general doctor.

During your evaluation, your dentist will examine you, take measurements of your mouth and throat, record your BMI and ask about your sleep history. You’ll also be asked about your medical history and any other health issues you might be experiencing, which could be linked to OSA or another form of sleep apnea.

Your dentist will take these findings and contact your general physician with the information gathered. From there they will determine a diagnosis and your doctor will help you with a treatment plan.

If you’re diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and determined to be a likely candidate, your doctor will be able to write you a prescription for an oral appliance from Dr. Van Instendal.

Stop snoring with the help of Acorn Dental Associates.

If you suspect you might have OSA due to chronic snoring or restless sleep, schedule an appointment with Acorn Dental Associates for an evaluation.

With over 30 years of experience, Dr. Van Instendal offers patients in Marlton and the surrounding South Jersey area sleep apnea treatment in the form of oral appliances. Even if you have already been diagnosed with OSA, you may be able to switch from a CPAP machine to a more comfortable oral appliance.

To schedule an appointment you can use our online Request a Visit form or give us a call.