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What Are The Effects and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

I didn’t sleep well and I’m a little tired… just another workday in America, right??

Getting a bad night’s sleep in the short term may not seem like a big deal, but in the long term, chronic sleep deprivation can cause serious help effects, many of which can result in chronic diseases, and even death!

In this chapter, we’ll outline the common symptoms of sleep apnea, describing both the short-term and long-term effects of poor sleep...

Why Does Having A Good Night’s Sleep Really Matter?

Even if you’re not a very techy person, you’ve probably seen the following message on your computer:

“Update in progress do not turn off the computer.”

We have been trained to understand that whenever you update or back up your device you don’t want to stop that process.  Because if you do you have to start completely over again. It doesn’t just pick up where it left off, in fact, you may have even permanently damaged your computer’s hardware or internal memory.

Our brain works the same way. When we’re in a “deep sleep mode”, our brain backs up information and “updates” our internal system.   

If we wake up during that process, even if we don’t know we woke up, our brain has to start back over again.  

You’re not healthy unless your sleep is healthy; We spend a third of our entire life sleeping.

What else do you spend a third of your life doing? 

Not eating, working out, or any other practice that we are always told we need to do to improve our lives.

Sleeping is the second most important thing that we do to live (the first is breathing).  If your body has to decide between sleeping and breathing, who’s going to win? 

You guessed it – Breathing!

We must breathe to live; this much we all know.  That’s why your body will keep waking you up over and over to make sure that breathing doesn’t stop.

What Causes Sleep Apnea Anyway?

When you are awake, the muscles in your head and neck keep your airway open so you can breathe. 

At the same time, your body goes into a deep paralyzed state so you have the “download time” 

So what happens when that breathing pathway is interrupted? Your body is going to choose breathing over whatever else is going on.

This causes your body to panic awake. This will manifest itself in different ways, many of which you will be familiar with:  

  • You’ll get startled
  • You’ll grind your teeth
  • You’ll roll over
  • You’ll open your mouth

You’re going to do whatever you can to breathe and then you’re back to sleep again.

But as a consequence, your body has “stopped the download”, forcing you to start the rejuvenation process all over again.  

Of course, as you may know, it’s not always so easy to fall back asleep once startled awake. This can be explained by science as well.  Waking up from this survival instinct gives you a spike of adrenaline potentially putting you in panic mode for the rest of the night. This wears your body down, depleting your body of these hormones that help you need later to deal with stress in life.

signs of sleep apnea

Long-Term Effects of Sleep Apnea and Poor Sleep

Long-term sleep deprivation has been shown to dramatically increase the level of inflammation in our bodies.  In fact, it has been shown to speed up the aging process and decrease your life expectancy by 20%!

If you do the math, that means if you would have lived to 100 with a sleep disorder breathing problem, you actually live to 80. If you were to live to 80, you would live to 65, if you would have lived to 70, you’ll live to 55.  You get the idea.  20% is a huge deal!

Why is inflammation such a debilitating process? It affects every system in the body, causing high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, and other leading causes of death.

Sleep deprivation is now said to rival smoking and obesity as one of the greatest public health challenges that our society faces today. This is much more than just “feeling sleepy”.

Sleep Disorders Can Cause Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

When you have sleep apnea, your body is likely depleted of adrenaline hormones. You’re using up all your adrenaline all night long because you’re waking up in panic mode. Now, when you really need them, you won’t have these hormones available during the daytime.

If somebody cuts you off on the street while you’re driving, your body goes on high alert and you don’t have any adrenaline left to deal with other high-stress situations. If your kid does something that really makes you unhappy, you have nothing left to deal with that situation anymore… 

This hormonal wear-and-tear is called adrenal fatigue syndrome.

As the sleep-interrupted nights add up, your body will start to compensate by figuring out how to use other hormones to take care of the stress — like thyroid hormones.

This leads to:

  • Weight gain
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Thyroid trouble

and that’s just to start

Is Snoring a Problem?

There’s a myth that snoring isn’t a long-term health problem. But the truth is that there is no such thing as healthy snoring or harmless snoring. 

If you’re snoring it’s probably because of an airway disruption that developed earlier in life.

Some may suspect that they have sleep apnea, and even have had a sleep test completed in the past, only to be told that they don’t have any problems.  This likely means the progress of this disease is so early that it’s gone undetected, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t be concerned. 

Those who have snoring problems or mild sleep disturbances likely have bodies that are compensating for the problem now, but this could change down the road.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea (#1) - Mouth Breathing

The first sign is if you breathe through your mouth while you sleep. 

Pay attention to what you’re doing right now. Your lips are likely closed and you should not be having to breathe through your mouth.

Whether we’re awake or asleep, we should breathe through our noses. If a child or spouse is sleeping with their mouth open and breathing through their mouth, there’s a problem.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea (#2) - ADHD

Many who are diagnosed with ADHD also have an underlying sleep disorder. We see this a lot in children. There are children who have ADHD or anxiety, younger children who wet the bed frequently, or children who can’t concentrate in school. These are all signs of poor sleep breathing and possible airway problems.

Children who can’t concentrate at school or who get chronic sinus infections and ear infections have an immune system that isn’t functioning optimally, and that may be due in part to the quality of breathing and airway during our sleep.

Children should never snore. Additionally, allergies are a sign of an overactive immune system or a dysfunctional immune response which can be connected with sleep-disordered breathing.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea (#3) - Thyroid Problems

Women with chronic fatigue, hormone imbalances, and thyroid problems often have an associated sleep disorder.   Individuals who have trouble losing weight, especially women with anxiety, migraines, headaches, and chronic pain may also have a sleep disorder that affects their ability to heal and regenerate.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea (#4) - Teeth Grinding

Try squeezing your teeth together right now; when you do this, what does your tongue feel like? Is it tightening up?

If you grind your teeth, it’s usually your body waking you back up again because your tongue is tightening up. 

As your tongue pulls itself out of the airway, your body is going to squeeze your teeth, tighten that tongue up, and pull it forward. So if somebody grinds or clenches their teeth, there’s an extremely likely chance that it’s an airway issue.

As you can see, sleep apnea is a big deal! The symptoms and effects of sleep apnea can’t be ignored. Now that you understand what happens to your body when you have sleep apnea, you may be wondering what actually causes this condition and that’s what we’ll cover in Chapter 2:

What are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?

Go to Chapter 2 to learn more.


More Than Just a Dental Exam, Your Total Care Dental Physical Includes

  • A Cone Beam CT Scan to identify problems related to old root canals, extraction sites, or failed tooth fillings.
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