When you were younger, you could get away with an all-nighter. You procrastinated and put off studying or projects until the night before. Then you drank some caffeine and stayed up for hours to finally get things done. Sure, you were exhausted the next day, but it’s not like you did that every night.
With sleep apnea, every night can be like that — and every day is a wreck.
Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing while you sleep. You wake up in a panic thinking you’re suffocating. But the problem goes away the instant you start waking up. Because you’re so tired, you quickly fall back asleep. This horrible cycle happens over and over again each night. You rarely (if ever) get a good night’s sleep when you have sleep apnea.
If you think some lost sleep is no big deal, here are several big problems that come with sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Complications
– Auto and biking accidents: Driving a car and riding a bike is mostly automatic. You rarely think about how much pressure to put on the gas pedal. You just know how much to give to reach 65 mph. Yet you need to be focused on the road. To avoid accidents, you need to be able to see what’s around you and react very quickly. When you are sleep deprived thanks to sleep apnea, your attention can easily wander. You can “zone out” while riding or driving, which increases your risk of having a bad accident.
– Lower grades at school: If you have a big test or presentation the next day, you know to get a good night’s rest beforehand. That’s because your ability to focus and remember is affected by fatigue. When you don’t get the sleep you need, the learning that took place earlier that day is more likely to fade away. Instead of getting stored in your memory, the facts and ideas disappear. That does not bode well for your grades.
– Mistakes at work: How often do you go out late on a workday? A few times is fun, but you know that you’ll pay the price on the next day. You drag yourself into work. Being so tired will decrease your productivity and sap your willpower to get things done right. Plus, being unable to truly pay attention to your work increases the chance that you’ll make big mistakes. Plug in the wrong numbers and your data is way off. With sleep apnea, every day can be like that.
– Irritability and depression: When you’re exhausted, you don’t have as good control over emotions as when you’re well-rested. Little problems that you would normally ignore can get to you. You’ll find yourself more likely to snap at people and rush to judgment. This gets worse as you keep losing sleep thanks to sleep apnea. You can face chronic depression instead of just moodiness.
– Grinding your teeth: Bruxism is the technical name for grinding your teeth unconsciously. It can damage your jaw joints and create worn spots on your teeth. People who suffer from sleep apnea can sometimes have problems with tight jaw muscles. Holding your jaw taut like that can grind your teeth together as you relax, pull taut, and relax again while you try to sleep.
– Lack of romantic desire and impotence: Being romantic takes work. When you’re well-rested, you have the energy and desire to be romantic. But when you suffer from sleep apnea, you just don’t have the strength. You’re exhausted and all you want to do is rest, not plan something romantic. When it comes time to enter the bedroom, men, in particular, can have a problem. Sleep apnea deprives you of the oxygen you need, which can lead to impotence.
– Problems with acid reflux: Your stomach is full of acid. There’s a muscular ring right where your esophagus meets your stomach that allows food to pass. Otherwise, it’s shut tight to keep the acid in your stomach where it belongs. When sleep apnea closes up your airway, that creates a pressure imbalance. This can draw stomach acid past that muscular ring, giving you acid reflux and heartburn.
– Sleepwalking and sleeptalking: Movies and TV tend to make sleepwalking look much different that it really is, but it’s still a real condition. Because sleep apnea keeps waking you up and then letting you fall back asleep, you can spend a lot of time in this weird in-between state. You’re not quite asleep, but you’re not quite awake either. This is the perfect time for sleeptalking (having discussions you’ll not remember) or sleepwalking (doing things in your home without remembering it in the morning).
Sleep Apnea Solutions
At either of our Laredo, TX dental offices, you can get sleep apnea treatment without needing a CPAP machine. A dental appliance is worn over your teeth at night when you sleep. It shifts your jaw slightly. This is usually enough to help keep your airway open, allowing you to breathe normally and stay asleep. It can even help reduce the awful snoring that usually comes with sleep apnea.