Have you ever had a restless night and woke up feeling physically useless the next morning? Have your children ever jumped up on your bed and awoken you in the middle of the night? Interruptions to your sleep can be annoying, but they can also affect your health by denying your body the rest it needs to recuperate after a day of activity. Now, imagine someone interrupting your sleep hundreds of times in one night. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you don’t have to imagine. That’s exactly what OSA does.
Revisiting Obstructive Sleep Apnea
In case you’ve missed our previous OSA articles, sleep apnea is a condition in which throat and soft oral tissues relax during sleep and block your airway. If snoring were a sport, OSA would be its extreme counterpart. Snoring is caused by air trying to squeeze past compressed throat tissue (the noise you hear comes from the vibrations of the tissue). Patients with sleep apnea will cease to breathe for 10 to 20 seconds or more when the compression becomes too tight. Once the body’s demand for air overpowers your sleepiness, it forces inhalation with a violent gasp and sometimes a loud snore, which wakes you slightly. Most patients fall back into a light sleep without realizing they’ve been awoken, but the constant interruption prevents you from falling into the deep sleep necessary for your body to rest.
Dangers from Sleep Deprivation
Sleep apnea proves risky to your health in a couple of ways. The first is sleep deprivation. If scientists never proved that our bodies needed sleep, our bodies would tell us anyway. Without sleep, we become irritable, disoriented, unable to think clearly, and constantly tired (daytime drowsiness). Sleep deprivation can be hazardous if you have to drive a car or operate machinery, and over time, you can develop memory problems, depression, increased perception of pain, and a weakened immune system.
Dangers from Blood Oxygen Deprivation
When your body reacts to oxygen deprivation in your sleep, panic hormones force you to breathe. A constantly repeated panic response within your body can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease from stress on the heart in a low-oxygen environment. Low blood oxygen can also interfere with normal glucose processing (diabetes) and digestion.
If you believe you may have obstructive sleep apnea, schedule a consultation with Dr. Corbet Locke by calling our Waco dental office at (254) 776-4888. We welcome patients from Waco, Woodway, McGregor, Hewitt, and surrounding communities.