You can probably remember a fun time you had staying up all night. Maybe you were cramming for finals, or you just couldn’t stop binge watching that great show. Either way, you had a fun time — until the next day. You were exhausted. You couldn’t focus, you felt kind of numb, and everything seemed sort of foggy. You went to bed early, and that did it. The fog was lifted.
Now imagine staying up every night. Yes, every night.
That’s how sleep apnea can affect people. Sure, few people sleep perfectly through the night. But people who suffer from sleep apnea can wake up hundreds of times each night. That’s because sleep apnea can either obstruct or close off your airway, jolting you awake with the feeling that you’re suffocating. Here are eight problems caused by sleep apnea that you might not have thought about.
- Depression: We need sleep. There’s just no getting around that. So when sleep apnea robs us of a restful night, we are going to be more irritable and cranky. Worse, it becomes a vicious cycle: You don’t get sleep, you get sad and anxious, and both make it harder to fall asleep.
- Poor performance at work: If you’ve ever stayed up late Sunday night to watch football or a movie, you know how a lack of good sleep can impact your performance at work. You’re going to be more irritable, so you’ll have more trouble dealing with people and problems. You don’t focus well, so some simple tasks might need to be redone several times before you finally get it right. Your brain needs sleep to rest and function. Sleep apnea robs that from your brain, meaning you aren’t going to work well.
- Impotence and loss of desire: People have trouble getting interested in sex when they’re exhausted — similar to a spouse who just got back from a 10-hour drive. The extreme fatigue caused by sleep apnea can cause you to lose desire and feel uninterested. In men, the loss of oxygen from not breathing right during sleep can increase inflammation in the body, leading to blood flow problems.
- Bruxism: During sleep apnea, the muscles around your throat relax too much. Some people’s bodies try to compensate by tightening the muscles around the jaw. This causes your jaw to move, potentially resulting in grinding your teeth (a condition called bruxism). Such grinding puts extra wear on your enamel, creating thin spots that can lead to tooth sensitivity and cavities.
- Heartburn: This condition is caused by acid reflux. There’s a strong, muscular ring that keeps stomach acid from getting in your esophagus. During sleep apnea, your throat muscles relax too much and can cut off your windpipe. This can create a difference in the normal air pressure of your throat. Research suggests this causes acid to be drawn up into your esophagus like soda through a straw.
- Sleepwalking: Yes, this is a real thing. Repeatedly waking up and falling back asleep thanks to sleep apnea fractures your consciousness. You’re not asleep, but you’re not awake. You’re in a mixed state in between. Your mind can be both asleep and awake. That’s when you can experience unusual problems like sleep talking, sleep eating, and even sleep walking. While anyone can have such problems, you may have a greater chance if you also have sleep apnea.
- Car accidents: When you’re exhausted, you’re more likely to make mistakes. If you have sleep apnea, chances are you’re exhausted more often than not. All of that fatigue interferes with your ability to concentrate. Driving is 90 percent boredom and 10 percent terror, meaning you really need to pay attention to the road. If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, however, your chances of getting into a car accident go up.
- Bad grades: Fatigue hurts your ability to stay focused, think clearly, and remember things. Guess what needs all three to be successful? Learning. When you suffer from sleep apnea, you are tired most of the time. That means if you are in school, you are going to have problems staying focused on your studies. You will also have more trouble thinking through the information and remembering it later.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition, but at least it can be treated. Some patients have to use a sleep apnea machine called a CPAP machine, but many can get relief from a night guard. This sleep apnea treatment is worn over your teeth at night. It shifts your jaw slightly to help your airway stay open. That lets you sleep more soundly.
If you or someone you know might have sleep apnea, call us today at 989-796-4848 for an appointment.