Is Sleep Apnea Destroying Your Health?

Is Sleep Apnea Destroying Your Health?Gregory skeens d.d.s.encinitas family dentistry

When was the last time you slept peacefully through the night? If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the answer is probably, “Um, what’s a full night’s sleep?”

You’re definitely not alone. More than 18 million adults in America suffer from OSA. This disruptive sleep disorder wreaks havoc on your body’s ability to rest and breathe. The ripple effects have the potential to seriously compromise your overall health, not just your quality of sleep. Although OSA might not seem like a condition dentists can handle, your Encinitas dentist can actually play an important role in your sleep apnea treatment and recovery process.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

The most common type of sleep apnea, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), causes frequent interruptions to your breathing while you sleep. These pauses in your breathing sometimes last ten seconds or more, during which time your body becomes deprived of oxygen.

When your brain becomes aware of the oxygen deprivation, it forces your body to rouse from sleep long enough to gasp, choke, or snort for more air.  This process keeps you alive and reopens your airways. But the relief doesn’t last long, and soon enough the problem begins again. Some cases of OSA are so severe that patients experience this terrible cycle up to 30 times per hour, all night long!

It’s possible that you don’t even realize the suffering you experience as a result of OSA every night. Even if you’re not aware of the fact that you’re coughing and gasping for air every few minutes, your body and mind are still deprived of the deep, restful sleep they need to function properly.  This leads to disastrous health consequences in the long term.

What Causes OSA?

Obstructive sleep apnea usually develops when the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much. Since those muscles support the tonsils, tongue, and the sidewalls of the throat, excessive relaxation creates very narrow airways that close as you inhale.

This means that people with OSA can’t get enough air when they breathe in their sleep. The body’s instinct is to cough and gasp for oxygen and attempt to return to sleep, but the problem occurs over and over again until morning.

Men and women of all ages can develop sleep apnea, but there are certain risk factors that make OSA more likely:

  • Being overweight or obese increases the chances of sleep apnea since fat deposits around the upper airway contribute to obstructed breathing
  • Smoking increases the risk of sleep apnea since it creates inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway
  • Family history of sleep apnea makes it more likely to inherent conditions that lead to sleep apnea

Do I Have OSA?

Sleep apnea can be tricky to diagnose, especially if you don’t have a bedmate to let you know when you’re snoring, coughing, and gasping for air. It is much more difficult to identify, especially if you sleep alone. Try asking a spouse, friend or child to observe your habits while sleeping in order to gain a better idea of what’s occurring.

If you regularly experience any of the following OSA symptoms, you should be evaluated for sleep apnea by a health professional:

  • Extreme daytime fatigue. Even though each pause in breathing only rouses you from your sleep for a few seconds, the constant disruption to your sleep cycle makes it nearly impossible to enter the deep REM sleep that helps you feel rested and rejuvenated. This is why excessive daytime fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. If you fall asleep at work and feel chronically drowsy, sleep apnea may be to blame. 
  • Mood swings. Just like your body can’t function without sleep, neither can your brain. Sleep apnea can cause moodiness, depression, and usual temper problems.
  • Loud snoring. Loud and aggressive snoring is usually a precursor to sleep apnea.

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea isn’t just a sleep issue. In addition to the fatigue, inability to concentrate, and irritability that it causes, OSA also makes your body vulnerable to serious complications.

Heart Problems

Every time you stop breathing in your sleep, your blood oxygen levels drop. This increases blood pressure and places stress on your entire cardiovascular system. As a result, OSA increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats.


Research shows that having sleep apnea may increase your risk of developing insulin resistance. When your body can’t respond to insulin properly, type 2 diabetes is quick to develop.

The Best Ways to Treat Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea isn’t a condition that you can ignore and simply hope it disappears. Episodes of apnea become worse and more severe without treatment. If you want to avoid the long-term consequences of sleep apnea, it’s essential to receive treatment as soon as possible.

CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine)

The CPAP is the most common sleep apnea treatment device. It streams humidified air through the nose to create enough air pressure and keep the throat open while you sleep. This supports steady, uninterrupted breathing without any pauses.

Since the CPAP supports the ability to breathe evenly all night, it helps you achieve a full night of restful sleep. Studies by Johns Hopkins show that patients who don’t wear their CPAP devices experience a significant spike in blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones overnight compared to patients who diligently wear their CPAPs.

Dental Devices

If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea, you can also turn to your dentist for help. CPAP machines are sometimes difficult to use or uncomfortable to wear, so your dentist can provide a mandibular repositioning dental appliance or tongue retaining appliance to bring your jaw forward and stop your tongue from blocking your airway. Many patients feel more comfortable wearing these dental devices than a CPAP, while others like to use both together for maximum results.

At Encinitas Family Dentistry, Dr. Skeens can evaluate the condition of your mouth and recommend the dental device best suited to alleviate your sleep apnea symptoms. With the help of your doctor and dentist together, you can escape the dangers of OSA and protect your health all night, every night.

Call (760) 933-3077 today to schedule your first appointment and learn more about the highest standards of care provided by Dr. Skeens and his team at Encinitas Family Dentistry.

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Dr. Gregory Skeens Encinitas Family Dentistry

Welcome to the Encinitas dental office of Gregory Skeens, JR., DDS. We are your home for caring dental treatment that supports superior oral health and helps you achieve the beautiful smile you’ve always wanted. Our modern facility is equipped with cutting-edge technology and our team is here to make your visit enjoyable and relaxing.

We take a truly individualized approach to dentistry, which is why our practice is so popular. After every treatment, Encinitas dentist Dr. Skeens personally makes follow- up phone calls to patients to ensure that they are feeling well. Your comfort and well-being are of ultimate importance.

Gregory W. Skeens, DDS | 519 Encinitas Blvd Suite 104, Encinitas, CA 92024 | Phone: (760) 944-9288 | Text: (760) 933-3077 | Email:

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