Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your airway becomes blocked at numerous
points during sleep, which causes you to stop breathing. This has a range of serious effects on
the body—it not only hinders your immune system and increases your risk for chronic disease,
but it can also lead to a shorter life span.
There are different types of sleep apnea a patient may be diagnosed with. What are the
differences between mild and severe obstructive sleep apnea?
Mild Sleep Apnea Characteristics
If you’ve been diagnosed with mild sleep apnea, this means you experience between 5 and 14
different instances of cessation of breathing every hour. When you think about the standard
person sleeping 8 hours, this means you could stop breathing over 100 times every single night!
Mild sleep apnea may also be accompanied by fatigue during the day as well as snoring at night.
Your partner may notice that you have a restless sleep or wake frequently during the night.
Typically, a person with sleep apnea will have no recollection of these periods of being unable
to breathe. Although mild, this form of obstructive sleep apnea still needs to be treated.
Severe Sleep Apnea Symptoms
People who have severe sleep apnea stop breathing 30 times or more every hour while they’re
asleep. This means they may stop breathing almost 250 times every night. Severe sleep apnea
shares many common symptoms with mild sleep apnea, such as snoring, fatigue, and restless
sleep, although these symptoms may be more pronounced.
If you have severe sleep apnea, you’re also much more likely to experience other health
problems that come with obstructive sleep apnea, including headaches upon waking, severe
fatigue during the day, and even suffering from depression. Severe sleep apnea is life-
threatening and should be treated by a specialist.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Any additional medical conditions you have as well as the severity of your fatigue may influence
what level of obstructive sleep apnea you have. A sleep study, which typically occurs overnight,
is the most common way to properly diagnose sleep apnea. Your dentist can talk with you
about your symptoms and refer you to a sleep specialist if you suspect you suffer from this
For many years, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines were considered to be
the only treatment for sleep apnea. Modern advances in treatment have enabled most types of
sleep apnea to be treated with oral sleep appliances. These appliances don’t fit much
differently than a retainer and are easy to wear and travel with. Best of all, they help alleviate
your symptoms of sleep apnea, helping your life return to normal.
Are you experiencing any symptoms of sleep apnea? Your dentist or physician can help you get
a proper diagnosis so that you can get the treatment you need to experience a better night’s
sleep. Talk with your dentist today about your symptoms to determine if mild or severe
obstructive sleep apnea could be impacting your life and your health!