May 22, 2020
Sleep apnea does far more than just leave you tired during the day. For many people, it can also lead to heart attacks, diabetes, and other conditions. But one effect that is often overlooked – and sometimes isn’t even recognized as a symptom until you’ve been properly diagnosed – is the changes sleep apnea might bring to your dreams. Believe it or not, sleep-related breathing disorders can actually disrupt dreaming, and the reasons why can have severe implications for your overall health. Read on to learn more from a dentist in Skokie about this link and what it tells you about your condition.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Dreams?
Less than half of all people with sleep apnea remember their dreams in contrast to over 70 percent of non-apneic people. This is largely because sleep apnea can stop you from dreaming altogether – or at the very least, cause you to have significantly fewer dreams.
This is due to the way the disorder disrupts the sleep cycle. When breathing is interrupted (usually due to the airway being blocked somehow), it often forces the brain to rouse you from your slumber temporarily so that you can get some much-needed oxygen. Even though these awakenings are brief, they can still prevent you from spending enough time in the later stages of the cycle. Specifically, they can interrupt REM sleep, which is when most dreaming occurs. Alternatively, sleep apnea can also cause you to have vivid nightmares as a side effect of the suffocation that you suffer when the airway is obstructed.
Why Does It Matter if Sleep Apnea Interrupts Dreams?
The end result of having your rest interrupted by sleep apnea is that you don’t spend nearly enough time in REM sleep, which is key to maintaining your mental health. Without it, you’ll have difficulty learning new things or retaining memories. In the meantime, the constant drop in oxygen levels will put a strain on your cardiovascular system, leading to dangerous health problems later down the line. And of course, the constant feeling of exhaustion that you’ll have due to not getting quality sleep will take its toll over time as well.
What Should You Do If You Have Sleep Apnea?
Once it has been confirmed through a sleep study that you have sleep apnea, your sleep dentist can help you form a treatment plan. A CPAP machine is one possible answer, but many patients cannot tolerate these noisy, uncomfortable devices; for this reason, customized oral appliances are often recommended instead since they can keep the airway open but remain silent and fit perfectly over your teeth.
If you want to have sleep apnea treated before it becomes a serious threat to your overall well-being, it pays to be able to recognize all of the potential warning signs. If you’ve suddenly had trouble recalling dreams lately and have also noticed other troublesome symptoms (such as constant drowsiness or loud snoring), now is the time to get in touch with a professional.
About the Author
Dr. Schwartz has been a practicing dentist since 1988 and is one of the nation’s leading experts in dental sleep (the use of oral appliances for sleep apnea). He currently serves as the Dental Director with the Center for Sleep Medicine. If you’re concerned that your lack of dreams might be linked to sleep apnea, you can schedule an appointment at his practice, Sleep Better Chiacagoland, by visiting his website or calling (847) 677-2808.
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