Graduate student falling asleep while studying in library, even after drinking a coffee

Often, when younger patients are told they have sleep apnea, their thoughts sometimes drift to the image of elderly person tethered to a CPAP machine every night. However, sleep apnea can occur at any age, including in your twenties. The good news is there are alternatives to using a CPAP to maintain an open airway while you sleep. Here are a few things you should know about having sleep apnea in your twenties.

What Is Sleep Apnea Anyway?

Sleep apnea is a catch-all term for conditions that cause people to temporarily stop breathing while they are asleep. There are three major types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) where an obstruction causes the patient to stop breathing. Common reasons for this include:
  2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain doesn’t signal the muscles that control breathing to consistently take a breath.
  3. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome is a combination of both OSA and CSA.
  • Obesity
  • Overly relaxed throat muscles
  • Tonsil issues
  • Other health conditions, including allergies, hyperthyroidism, deviated septum, narrow throat or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)

Symptoms That You Might Have Sleep Apnea

One of the most common signs associated with sleep apnea is loud snoring. But there are other signs to be aware of even if you are only in your 20s:

  • Being tired or having difficulty staying awake during the day, no matter how much sleep you’ve had
  • Waking up, gasping for air or feeling like you are choking
  • Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night
  • Continually waking up in the morning with a headache, dry mouth and throat, or severe sore throat
  • Unexplained changes in your mood or cognitive function, including depression, anxiety, memory problems or loss of interest in sex

Risks Of Not Treating Sleep Apnea In Your 20s

It is easy to brush off or explain away sleep apnea symptoms when you appear to be an otherwise healthy 20-year-old. However, if you do experience symptoms of this condition, it is important to discuss them with your physician.

Leaving sleep apnea untreated can lead to serious health problems like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Arrhythmia
  • Diabetes
  • Headaches
  • Cognitive issues

You Have Options For Treating Sleep Apnea

If you think you have sleep apnea in your twenties or at any age, don’t avoid treating it out of fear of a CPAP machine or an invasive surgery. Depending on the severity and type of your sleep apnea, there are alternative treatment options available, including the use of dental appliances.

For patients with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, dental appliances can help reduce your snoring and OSA. Some of the dental appliances available include:

  • Mandibular advancement devices - recommended because they effectively push your lower jaw forward to maintain an open airway while you sleep
  • Mouth guards - also help reposition your lower jaw to keep your airway open
  • Tongue-retaining devices - hold your tongue forward while you sleep to prevent it from blocking your airway

Sleep apnea can happen to anyone, even if you are in your twenties. If you think you might have it, schedule a consultation to discuss your treatment options with Dr. Bruce Kanehl by calling 904-731-2162.