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Michigan Head & Neck Institute

TMJ Blog

03. 01. 2019

Sleep Apnea

Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder that causes you to momentarily stop breathing multiple times per night. Because the symptoms occur while you are unconscious, you may not even be aware that you have a problem until someone else brings it to your attention. However, there are warning signs of sleep apnea that occur while you are awake as well. If you believe you may have sleep apnea, the best way to find out for sure is with a sleep apnea test. Once you have a clear diagnosis, the specialists at Michigan Head and Neck Institute may be able to help you treat the disorder.


Different Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two main types of sleep apnea. When most people use the term, they are talking about obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type. Another, less prevalent, type is called central sleep apnea. Though the effects are similar to OSA, the cause is very different as it originates in the central nervous system. Rarely, some people may have mixed sleep apnea, with both central and obstructive components.

A person with sleep apnea experiences short, repeated episodes during which he or she stops breathing while in an unconscious state. If you have OSA, this happens because the soft tissues in the throat collapse, blocking the airway. With the airway blocked, your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and wakes you up slightly to clear the obstruction, but once you go back to sleep, the tissues in your throat start relaxing and the cycle begins again.


Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea

warning signs of sleep apnea

The brief awakenings during the night to clear your airway are usually not long enough to allow you to regain full consciousness, so you may not have any memory of them upon waking up completely. Many people with OSA do not notice any symptoms themselves but are informed by loved ones of symptoms like snoring and breathing cessation.

However, because sleep apnea prevents you from getting a restful night’s sleep, it can also cause symptoms that occur during the day. Some warning signs to watch for, day and night, include the following:


  • Loud snoring when sleeping or napping
  • Gasping or choking that wakes you up
  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Night sweats
  • Sore throat or dry mouth upon awakening
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Decreased libido
  • Mood swings

If left untreated, OSA can cause or worsen the following conditions:


  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure/cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke


Testing for Sleep Apnea

The most conclusive way to diagnose sleep apnea and rule out similar disorders is with a sleep study, also known as polysomnography. This can take place in a sleep clinic or sometimes in your own home. Regardless of where the test takes place, it involves applying various types of monitoring equipment to your body to keep track of your blood oxygen levels, breathing patterns, and airflow. A sleep apnea doctor then uses this information to make a diagnosis.


Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Your sleep apnea treatment depends on several factors, including its cause and severity. Most people respond to nonsurgical treatment methods, the most common of which are oral appliances and continuous positive airway pressure.

Oral appliances work in one of two ways: either they hold your tongue in a position where it cannot fall back and block your airway, or they open up the back of your throat by bringing your jaw forward. CPAP is a common form of OSA treatment in which you wear a mask over your nose and/or mouth connected to a machine that blows a continuous stream of air down your throat, preventing the soft tissues from collapsing. More severe cases of sleep apnea may require CPAP, while oral appliances may be effective for treating mild-to-moderate cases.


Explore Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Once you know what is causing your symptoms, you and a sleep apnea doctor can determine the best way to treat the condition. You can schedule a consultation with Michigan Head and Neck Institute by calling 586-473-1533.

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The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other materials are for informational purposes only. While there are many commonalities among multiple TMD and sleep apnea cases, each patient is unique. Information on this website should be used to educate the reader about what they should discuss with their doctor if they are suffering from the listed symptoms. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or you may call our office with any questions you may have regarding TMD or sleep apnea. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Disclaimer: This site contains selective use of the term 'specialist.' There is no recognized specialty in TMJ. For more information, please contact us.