You wake up, and then immediately you notice the unpleasant pain in your head. Does this happen to you every morning? If so, it might be a sign of a sleep disorder. In particular, chronic headaches might be a sign that you have sleep apnea – a disorder that could lead to far worse problems if left alone. Read on to learn why those migraines might be warning you that you aren’t enjoying quality rest.
What is Sleep Apnea?
If you experience frequent pauses in your breathing while you’re asleep, you have sleep apnea. These pauses are usually due to the airway becoming blocked somehow, which can happen hundreds of times during the night. People with sleep apnea keep waking up when their breathing is interrupted; as a result, they often feel tired during the day even if they think they got a full night’s sleep.
How Does Sleep Apnea Cause Headaches?
When your breathing stops, your brain receives less oxygen. This causes the blood vessels in your head to widen, triggering vascular headaches. Sleep apnea-related headaches usually don’t last very long, but they can occur frequently. In general, more severe sleep apnea will result in more painful headaches.
What Other Effects Does Sleep Apnea Have?
You should especially consider morning headaches to be a potential symptom of sleep apnea if you also notice:
- Loud snoring or interruptions in breathing during the night (which someone else would likely tell you about)
- A lack of energy during the day
- High blood pressure
- A sudden increase of weight
- Irritability, depression or mood swings
How Can You Treat Headaches Caused by Sleep Apnea?
Typically, treating your sleep apnea will also stop any recurring headaches that it’s causing. In many cases, you can improve your symptoms with an oral appliance. When worn at night, an oral appliance can adjust your tongue and/or jaw so that the airway remains open while you’re asleep. There are numerous different kinds of appliances you can get depending on your needs; for example, some are designed for patients with smaller mouths, while others can accommodate for orthodontic work.
There are also some changes you can make at home that make it easier to overcome sleep apnea. For instance, sleeping on your side (instead of on your back) can prevent tissues in your mouth in throat from collapsing and blocking your airway. Some patients benefit from using a humidifier; adding moisture to the air can sometimes encourage clearer breathing.
It’s important to stick to your sleep apnea treatment once you’ve begun; the disorder tends to worsen over time, and the symptoms associated with it also become more severe as a result. There’s no reason to put up with constant headaches and exhaustion any longer than you already have; get in touch with a dental sleep expert today!
About the Author
Dr. Kent Smith is the founding practitioner and chief medical officer of Sleep Dallas in Irving; he has been helping patients overcome sleep breathing disorders for over 25 years. He’s an expert in the field of dental sleep medicine and currently helps facilitate multiple national and international seminars to help dentists combat sleep apnea. To schedule an appointment, visit his website or call (844) 409-4657.