Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Although sleep apnea affects people of all ages, races, genders, and lifestyles, it’s important to know what signs might put you at high risk for sleep apnea.

You are considered at high risk for sleep apnea if you are:

  • Male (or female after menopause)
  • Older
  • Overweight
  • A person with a family history of sleep apnea
  • A person with a small airway
  • A smoker
  • A drinker who consumes alcohol in the evening
  • A survivor of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke

For most of adulthood, men have a two to three times higher risk of sleep apnea than women. Sleep apnea risk increases for everyone as we get older. However, women’s risk of sleep apnea increases significantly after menopause, with some studies suggesting that their risk essentially equals that of men of the same age.

Being overweight significantly increases your risk of obstructive sleep apnea. You are also more likely to have sleep apnea if you have a family history of it. This may be because you have a relatively small airway, which is more likely to close during sleep.

Smoking can inflame your airways and increase your risk of sleep apnea. Drinking alcohol in the evening relaxes your airway, making it more likely to collapse, causing a sleep apnea attack.

Sleep apnea increases your risk of cardiovascular conditions, but if you experience serious problems such as a heart attack, your risk of central sleep apnea–an uncommon form of the condition–increases significantly.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

If you are at risk for sleep apnea, what symptoms should you watch for? Here are some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea that you might notice:

  • Waking up unrested despite a full night’s sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness (you may doze off at work, while watching TV, or while driving)
  • Morning headache
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Waking up at night
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Loss of focus
  • Memory problems
  • Low energy and loss of drive
  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Depression or other mood disorders
  • Irritability

These are the symptoms you are most likely to notice during the day. People most often realize they have a sleep problem if they experience symptoms like feeling unrested, daytime sleepiness, or waking symptoms like headache and dry mouth.

Some of the other symptoms might be harder to link to sleep apnea and can sometimes be misdiagnosed. If you have taken steps to improve your nightly sleep, but you’re still not getting good restful sleep, talk to your doctor or Minneapolis sleep dentist Dr. Bril about getting a sleep test.

Signs of Sleep Apnea Others May Notice

Other times, people become aware of their sleep apnea because of signs that those around them report. If people report that you have:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes when your breathing stops at night
  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Clenching and grinding teeth during sleep
  • Restless sleep

Snoring is one of the most common signs associated with sleep apnea. Studies show that the louder you snore, the more likely you are to have obstructive sleep apnea. For people with sleep apnea, snoring will often end when they stop breathing. Gasping or choking may occur as your body fights to resume breathing.

Your partner or roommate may also report that you sleep restlessly and that you clench or grind your teeth while sleeping.

If people report that you have these problems during sleep, talk to your doctor or Minneapolis sleep dentist, Dr. Bril, about getting a sleep test.

Medical Conditions Linked to Sleep Apnea

It’s also likely that you don’t suspect sleep apnea until you are diagnosed with some of the medical complications related to the condition. Take the following diagnoses as a sign of sleep apnea risk:

  • High blood pressure (especially drug-resistant hypertension)
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Depression
  • TMJ or TMD

High blood pressure is one of the conditions most strongly linked to sleep apnea. If your high blood pressure doesn’t respond to medications (drug-resistant hypertension), it’s very likely that you have sleep apnea.

Temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) are not directly related to sleep apnea. However, the jaw dysfunctions of TMJ are commonly linked to airway problems that cause sleep apnea. Perhaps as many as three-quarters of people with TMJ also have sleep apnea.

It’s also possible that your doctor, who isn’t thinking about sleep problems and might not ask you about your sleep, could explain your other symptoms with conditions like:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Low testosterone
  • Depression
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Insomnia

In some cases, these conditions may be secondary to your sleep apnea. Other times, these might be misdiagnosed.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis in Minneapolis

If any of the above signs and symptoms make you think you might have sleep apnea, it’s important to get a sleep test. This is the only true method for diagnosing sleep apnea. Other methods, such as a questionnaire, are just screening tools.

In the past, a sleep test meant that you had to spend a night in a sleep lab. However, Minneapolis sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Bril can help you get a home sleep test. For most people, this provides an accurate diagnosis in the comfort of your own bed.

To learn more about getting a sleep test, please call (952) 944-2052 or use our online contact form to request an appointment at Brilliant Dentistry, serving the Minneapolis area from Eden Prairie.