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Does Sleep Apnea Cause Headaches?

If you're someone who struggles with both sleep apnea and headaches, you may be wondering if there's a connection between the two. The answer is a resounding yes. Dr. Ana Chester, Dr. Jeff Morrison, and the team at Chester Family Dentistry see many patients in Warren, Ohio, for sleep apnea who struggle with headaches. Sleep apnea is so common that we look for signs of sleep apnea during your routine cleaning.

Treating sleep apnea can help alleviate many of the symptoms and complications of sleep apnea. 

Here’s what you need to know about sleep apnea and headaches δΈ€ and how the right treatment can alleviate both.

Defining sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing while you’re sleeping. These interruptions can last for a few seconds, but they can occur numerous times throughout the night. The most common type of sleep apnea, obtrusive sleep apnea, happens when excess tissue partially blocks your airway while you sleep.

This can lead to intense snoring, gasping for air as you wake up, excessive daytime fatigue, and increased trips to the restroom at night. Sleep apnea isn’t just a nuisance. It can increase your risk of serious complications, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and even strokes.

How does sleep apnea cause headaches?

Sleep apnea is undeniably problematic, and waking up with a headache each morning just makes it even more problematic. Sleep apnea:

Leads to oxygen deprivation

All the apneas (pauses in breathing) throughout the night lead to oxygen deprivation. During apnea episodes, the supply of oxygen to your body is disrupted, and that can lead to a drop in your blood oxygen levels. This lack of oxygen can trigger headaches as soon as you wake up.Leads to increased carbon dioxide levels

If you aren’t breathing properly, then you aren’t exhaling carbon dioxide properly. This can lead to an increase in carbon dioxide levels. This is known as hypercapnia. Elevated carbon dioxide levels can dilate your blood vessels and contribute to headaches. This creates a cycle of discomfort for people with sleep apnea.

Other symptoms of hypercapnia include irritability, nausea, and fatigue.

Poor sleep quality

If you don’t get enough sleep (with or without) sleep apnea, chances are good, you’ll develop a headache at some point. Fragmented sleep can prevent you from entering deeper, more restorative sleep stages. Poor sleep quality and insufficient rest can result in tension headaches. This adds yet another layer to the headache-sleep apnea connection.

Is sleep apnea causing your headaches?

You may have a headache for many different reasons. Dietary triggers, stress, and even certain hairstyles can trigger a headache. However, if you exhibit other signs of sleep apnea and always wake up with a morning headache, you might be dealing with sleep apnea. 

Potential treatments for sleep apnea include:

CPAP machines are the most well-known treatment for sleep apnea, but they can be difficult to clean, and they’re bulky. Here at Chester Family Dentistry, our team helps you explore dental options, such as oral appliances, to help treat sleep apnea. As your sleep apnea is managed, you should see a reduction in morning headaches as well! 

Questions? Give us a call at 330-505-9668, or schedule your appointment online to explore your sleep apnea treatment options.

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