Apnea. It’s a funny word, but absolutely nothing to laugh at! Derived from the Greek word apnoia, it literally means “without breath.”  That’s right. Sleep apnea is when your breathing stops while you are asleep – and that is as serious as it sounds.

Because sleep apnea stops you from breathing, sometimes hundreds of times a night and for up to two minutes at a time, it causes a drop in blood oxygen levels. Your body realizes it could die from lack of oxygen, the fight or flight startle response is triggered, and with a gasp, you wake up. This process places a lot of stress on your heart and raises blood pressure. In addition, the adrenaline released affects cortisol levels – and a cortisol imbalance can lead to dramatic weight gain!

Sleep apnea also keeps you from properly entering REM sleep, the most restorative stage of nightly sleep. Without REM sleep, the brain begins to function less optimally, affecting your memory, your ability to recognize mistakes, your mood, your ability to cope with stress, and even the way you process pain.

A study by the Institute of Medicine reports that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and wakefulness. The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine notes that over 18 Million Americans have OSA.


Everyone’s Sleep Apnea is the same, right?

Well, sort of. Obstructive sleep apnea always refers to a breathing disorder resulting in a cessation of breath. But there are categories: Mild, moderate, and severe. What distinguishes mild sleep apnea from severe is simply your blood oxygen level and the number of episodes you have per hour. The more episodes, the more severe your apnea is considered.

The Standard Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI):

  • Mild = more than five but fewer than 15 episodes per hour
  • Moderate = more than 15 but fewer than 30 episodes per hour
  • Severe = more than 30 episodes per hour

Clearly – mild, moderate, or severe – sleep apnea is nothing to ignore.

But even if your apnea has been classified as mild, stopping breathing more than five times an hour can lead to seriously dangerous and unpleasant symptoms, including:

  • Mental decline, trouble concentrating, memory problems, or dementia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Increased cancer risk
  • High blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Obesity
  • Night time chest pain
  • A feeling of severe or excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Depression or lack of interest in life
  • Morning headaches
  • Dry mouth and/or a sore throat in the morning
  • Irregular heartbeat

Do I Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

If you snore or your bed partner complains about your sleep noises, you probably want to talk to a doctor, your family dentist, or a ProSomnus® dentist. But snoring and gasping isn’t the only sign of OSA.

  • Inconsistent breathing during sleep
  • Gasping, choking, or coughing during sleep
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Extreme sleepiness throughout the day
  • Lethargic feelings
  • Morning headaches
  • Mouth breathing

If you have any of these symptoms, take a moment to complete this self-assessment Test. It might be time to find a ProSomnus dentist near you!

If you have any of these symptoms, take a moment to complete this self-assessment test. It might be time to find a ProSomnus dentist near you!