Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects millions of people, but many of them don’t even realize they have it. Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing in your sleep (apnea is Greek for “the cessation of breath”). Despite the fact that it’s typically marked by repetitive episodes of loud snoring, OSA doesn’t usually force you into consciousness, so detecting it on your own can be difficult. Fortunately, there are other signs that can warn you that you might have sleep apnea, and if you notice any of them, you should schedule a consultation with your dentist as soon as possible.
Obstructive sleep apnea is called such because it results from mouth and throat tissues obstructing your airway. Oral tissues and muscles can collapse into your airway while you sleep, causing the space to become increasingly more narrow until it is completely obstructed. Snoring grows louder as the airway grows narrower, then stops suddenly as the airway closes. After several moments, your body will panic from the lack of oxygen and force itself awake just enough to start breathing again.
Not disturbing your unconscious slumber might seem like a plus, but the truth is that OSA can disrupt your sleep whether your realize it or not. As the apnea cycles repeat themselves throughout the night (often hundreds of times), they can prevent you from entering the deep levels of sleep (or R.E.M. sleep) that you need to properly rest and rejuvenate. In time, you can begin to experience effects of sleep deprivation, such as;