Sleep apnea is a serious respiratory disorder with a wide variety of causes. Age, smoking and certain physical factors can increase your risk of sleep apnea.
The physical and mental health consequences of this disorder are quite significant and can greatly affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Some patients are not even aware of having the disorder.
From fatigue and snoring to irritability and low sex drive, the dental surgeons at Clinique Evoro present 8 warning signs of sleep apnea to watch out for.
1. Poor sleep
One of the main warning signs of sleep apnea is poor sleep quality. Sleep apnea causes frequent pauses in breathing that may last up to several seconds at a time. This can cause you to awaken momentarily, which disrupts your sleep cycle. The result is sleep that is not restorative or restful and fatigue during the day.
2. Irritability and mood swings
Poor sleep quality can significantly affect your mood. That’s why increased irritability is one of the warning signs of sleep apnea.
People with sleep apnea may also suffer from mood swings or mood disorders. For example, these individuals often experience anxiety and sometimes even depression.
3. Daytime sleepiness and falling asleep unintentionally
Do you end up falling asleep every time you watch TV? Do you always feel tired, even during the day?
The accumulation of fatigue caused by sleep apnea can result in excessive daytime sleepiness. This symptom can significantly affect your quality of life, because you may fall asleep at work, or worse, while driving. It’s important to talk to a health professional if you notice this happening to you.
4. Loss of concentration
Since sleep apnea prevents the brain from resting properly, the disorder can lead to difficulty with concentration and memory loss. This may affect your performance at work or at school.
Note: Loss of concentration is not always related to sleep apnea, but it is often the result of other symptoms of the disorder (poor sleep, fatigue, irritability).
5. Morning headaches
Experiencing headaches when you wake up in the morning is often an indicator of sleep apnea. These unpleasant headaches generally disappear once you start your day.
6. Awakening with a choking sensation
Obstructive sleep apnea causes the airways to partially or completely close during sleep. Someone suffering from this type of sleep apnea may wake up suddenly with a choking sensation.
People who have a weak or receding chin or a small jaw are more likely to have this problem and often require orthognathic surgery to correct it.
If you wake up gasping or choking, it’s important to consult a health professional as soon as possible. They can refer you to a respirologist who will have you undergo a test to determine whether you have sleep apnea.
7. Loud snoring
A common symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring during sleep. If your snoring is disrupting your sleep or your partner’s, it might be an indication that you suffer from sleep apnea.
That being said, snoring is quite common, particularly among older people, and is not always caused by sleep apnea.
8. Decreased libido
Lower libido and erectile dysfunction can also be symptoms of sleep apnea. Intense fatigue can affect sexual desire in those suffering from the disorder.
Sleep apnea or unrelated symptoms?
A variety of factors, including dental malocclusion, can lead to sleep apnea. Many of the symptoms of the disorder stem from poor sleep. Just one of these symptoms should not be cause for alarm. Sleep apnea is more likely when someone is experiencing several of the warning signs listed above.
If there is any doubt, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor in order to get a proper diagnosis.
Orthognathic surgery: a possible solution for sleep apnea
While sleep apnea is a serious disorder, it is treatable.
At Clinique Evoro in Gatineau, we can treat certain sleep apnea patients with orthognathic surgery. Dr. Sarah Théberge, a dental surgeon who specializes in oral and maxillofacial surgery, will be able to advise you on jaw repositioning to correct or lessen the severity of the condition.