If your doctor or your dentist has diagnosed you with sleep apnea, you may wonder why you should seek treatment or if it is even worth it. This thought may come to you if you have mild symptoms or if you feel that the process is too much trouble.
However, the side effects of sleep apnea may change your mind. While the side effects may seem manageable at first, your problems may get worse over time. The long-term side effects can actually be extremely detrimental to your overall health.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that needs treatment because the consequences can actually be deadly. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where your breathing is affected.
There are a few different kinds of sleep apnea that may affect your sleep. Examples include obstructive, complex, or central sleep apnea. Your airway may constrict your breathing. This may cause loud snoring, or your brain may not be sending the correct signals to your body to breathe correctly. This would mean you would randomly stop breathing at different times.
What Are the Side Effects of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep is a major aspect of your health, and anything that alters it can throw your system off balance. Snoring and disrupted breathing can take a toll on your body. When you stop breathing in your sleep, your body will move into a fight-or-flight state in order to correct itself. This may cause you to gasp for breath or wake with a start.
Instead of you getting rest while you sleep, your body is producing adrenaline, which keeps your body in an active state. Your body requires complete rest in order for your organ systems to function.
Over time, this not only affects your ability to be fully rested. It can also begin to break down your immune system. With a diminished immune system, you are more likely to get sick and have a harder time recovering from other illnesses.
The stress that your body undergoes from sleep apnea can also affect your heart and its ability to function properly. Having sudden drops in your oxygen levels can increase your blood pressure because your heart is having to overwork itself. Sleep apnea increases your risk of hypertension (or high blood pressure).
Depending on the type of sleep apnea you have, you could be at risk for abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, or strokes. Heart disease and sleep apnea have the potential for much more serious side effects. The combination of low blood oxygen levels and an irregular heartbeat, caused by sleep apnea, can result in death.
How Can a Dentist Help?
While most sleep apnea is treated with a CPAP machine, your dentist can offer you an alternative, especially if you have obstructive sleep apnea. During your exam, your dentist may suggest oral appliance therapy if you would be a good candidate. Your dentist will fit you with a device that fits in your mouth similarly to a mouthguard so that your airway can stay open and unobstructed.