At some point in our lives, staying up all night was good fun. Going to the clubs, partying with friends, or just binging on our favorite movies kept you up. That’s fine because you caught up on your sleep at some point. But with sleep apnea, there is no catching up.
In this condition, your throat muscles relax too much when you sleep. Their weight slowly closes your windpipe. You start to suffocate, so you wake up fast. Since it goes away the instant you wake, you actually don’t fully wake up. You fall back asleep, only to wake up again and again. Sleep apnea is much worse than bad snoring. The sleep you don’t get will hurt you, and you’ll need an oral appliance to help. To show why, here are some short-term and long-term effects of sleep apnea.
- Irritability: Everyone has had the odd night of little sleep. The next day, you feel a bit irritable. Often, this gets worse as the day drags on. You’re just so tired that it’s easy for people to get on your nerves. You could find yourself snapping at people when that’s not who you are.
- Worse grades at school: In order to study, you need to be able to focus. You might be the kind who can study with music on. You might need quiet instead. But you definitely need rest. When sleep apnea takes that away, your memory and learning become affected.
- Worse performance at work: The same is true when you have a job. Even on the best of days, you can find it hard to pay attention in meetings or focus on all those emails. Now try doing that on no sleep. Because you’re not getting the rest you need thanks to sleep apnea, your job performance is going to suffer. Your bosses will probably notice that.
- Car accidents: You have trouble studying and working because you have trouble paying attention. Your brain is desperate for rest. It can make you lose your focus. You could also be so tired that your body tries to grab a little nap. Unfortunately, this can happen at any time — even when you are driving. It’s hard to be an alert driver when you’re so tired and exhausted. You are going to be much more likely to get into car accidents.
- Lower sex drive: Imagine spending the day moving to a new place. By the time you get there and load everything in your house, you’re exhausted. All you want is some sleep. Then your husband starts hinting that he’d like to get closer. How could you feel interested when you’re that tired? Sleep apnea gets you that tired, so you’ll quickly start to lose your sex drive. In men, this can even begin to show as impotence.
- Heartburn: When your throat muscles relax too much, they cause sleep apnea. This changes the air pressure in your windpipe. Stomach acid can be drawn up into your esophagus by this pressure change, giving you heartburn.
- Heart disease: When sleep apnea stops you from breathing, you’re not getting enough oxygen. Your body starts to pump blood faster so what little you have can get throughout your body. This puts extra pressure on your heart when it should be resting. Over time, this can contribute to heart disease.
- Hypertension: As above, missing so much oxygen means your heart beats faster. This pushes harder on your blood vessels, increasing the pressure there. This happens so often that you can develop complications from high blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes: The cause of this is still not clear. Studies have shown people with sleep apnea are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Weight gain: You tend not to get hungry when you’re asleep. But when you wake, the hunger can return quickly. That’s because your body’s processes slow down when you’re asleep. But when sleep apnea keeps you awake, you’re going to be hungrier. You’ll also be irritable, so you won’t make good choices. And you’ll be too tired to feel like exercising. Sleep apnea can help you pack on the pounds.
- Depression: All of that irritability and sleep loss will get to you eventually. People with sleep apnea tend to suffer from depression. This can actually make it harder to sleep, making the problem even worse.
That’s why sleep apnea treatment is so important. At our Jeffersonville, IN dental office, Dr. Kirchner can use the Mallampati test to determine if you have sleep apnea. Then he can give you a sleep appliance that helps keep your airway open — and the problems above at bay. If you think you might have sleep apnea, call us today at 812-913-6093.