Sleep Apnea Often Undiagnosed

by Dana Rockey, DMD, Owner, Prescott Sleep Solutions

Approximately 22 million people in the United States suffer from a sleep breathing disorder known as sleep apnea. But 80% of the moderate-to-severe cases haven’t been diagnosed.

Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea is connected to almost every major cause of early or sudden death. Treating sleep apnea with an oral appliance or NightLase laser therapy helps restore blood oxygen saturation to more normal levels, letting you sleep more peacefully throughout the night.

Apnea, or an apneic episode, refers to a pause in your breathing that can last for just a few seconds or up to 30 seconds or longer. You may stop breathing or take in incomplete breaths many times an hour.

You may also experience hypopnea, which means you breathe in some oxygen, but not a full breath’s worth. Hypopnea is similar to sipping a milkshake through a straw that’s partially clogged. Apnea is similar to sipping a milkshake through a totally blocked straw.

If you have the most common type of sleep apnea, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you probably snore. However, the absence of snoring doesn’t mean you don’t have this condition.

Another type of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea (CSA), is a brain signaling problem. It is possible to have both OSA and CSA, but it’s rare.

If you experience apneas and hypopneas, you’re not taking in enough oxygen while you breathe. You also may be grinding your teeth, a condition called bruxism. It’s believed that teeth grinding reminds your body to take a breath. However, apnea-induced bruxism can wear down or crack your teeth and damage your jaw.

If your blood oxygen levels are low, that means your cells aren’t getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to repair damage and create healthy new cells. Every time your blood oxygen levels drop, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline to correct this drop.

Excess cortisol and adrenaline can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Weakened heart
  • Heart attacks

Both the lack of oxygen and the lack of complete, restorative sleep means that your body can’t rebuild and detoxify itself. One of the most important organs sleep apnea affects is your brain.

Sleep apnea can damage white matter and gray matter causing:

  • Memory problems
  • Trouble focusing
  • Impaired thinking
  • Reduced alertness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stroke