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“Can I have both sleep apnea and insomnia?” And Other Sleep Medicine FAQs

By May 24, 2023Sleep Medicine
Man lying on the bed with light shining through the blinds

Millions of Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Two of the most common are insomnia and sleep apnea, although there are other conditions that can affect you with varying degrees of severity. Whichever condition you experience, it can have serious consequences for your mood, your job performance, your relationships, and your long-term health. Fortunately, sleep medicine experts offer a variety of effective treatments to help you get the rest you need to feel your best. 

Dr. Timothy Mickiewicz, DDS, is a highly experienced sleep medicine practitioner. At his Sacramento, CA, office, he can determine whether you are suffering from sleep apnea, insomnia, or a related condition. If it is sleep apnea, he can provide lasting relief with a simple oral appliance. If it is another sleep disorder, he can help you find a treatment provider to meet your unique needs.

To find out what’s keeping you tossing and turning, contact Dr. Mickiewicz today.

Can I have both sleep apnea and insomnia?

Insomnia occurs when you are unable to fall asleep or unable to stay asleep. Sleep apnea occurs when you wake up repeatedly because your airways are blocked. Although the two conditions can have similar side effects, their causes are completely different.

Until the 1970s, medical experts believed that sleep apnea and insomnia could not occur together. In fact, they classified insomnia as a secondary condition, a consequence of another health problem. Today, we recognize that insomnia is its own condition and that insomnia and sleep apnea can occur together. However, diagnosing them as two separate conditions can be challenging due to their similar side effects.

Are there risk factors for insomnia and sleep apnea?

The risk factors for sleep apnea are widely known. Older, overweight and male patients are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. 

But insomnia also has its own set of contributing risk factors. These include:

  • Being older
  • Being female
  • A family history of insomnia
  • An irregular sleep pattern (those who do shift work, for example)
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption

What happens if I don’t seek treatment for my sleep disorder?

Unfortunately, sleep disorders are often unreported or undiagnosed. For example, an estimated 80 to 90% of individuals with sleep-disordered breathing are undiagnosed. And this can have alarming consequences for both the short and long term. 

Whether you suffer from sleep apnea, insomnia, or another sleep disorder, you could experience chronic fatigue and daytime sleepiness. The lack of sleep can also cause a host of problems. Among others, these include: 

  • Poor work performance
  • An increased risk for car and workplace accidents
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Poor personal relationships
  • High blood pressure
  • An increased risk for type 2 diabetes
  • An increased risk for heart attack and stroke

Can sleep apnea be cured?

There is no cure for sleep apnea. However, with the right treatment, you could experience a complete reversal of your symptoms. Common sleep apnea treatments include:

  • Oral appliances: Custom-made appliances called mandibular adjustment devices (MADs) push the lower jaw forward to open the airways.
  • CPAP machines: Continuous positive airway pressure devices use a stream of air, delivered via a mask, to force the airways open.
  • Lifestyle changes: Since being overweight can worsen sleep apnea, a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce your symptoms.

Can insomnia be cured?

There are two types of insomnia, and the good news is that both can be cured. Acute insomnia lasts less than three months and will eventually go away on its own. Nonetheless, there’s no reason to suffer, hoping that you will eventually be able to sleep again. If you notice that you consistently have trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to a sleep medicine specialist.

Chronic insomnia lasts more than three months and may not go away without treatment. The right protocol for you will depend on the cause of your insomnia. If your insomnia is anxiety-related, you may benefit from anti-anxiety medications and/or counseling. Lifestyle changes may also be necessary. These could include:

  • Adopting a regular sleep schedule
  • Limiting or avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Turning off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed
  • Limiting naps to 30 minutes or less
  • Getting regular exercise and plenty of time outdoors

In the short term, prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids can also be helpful.

Are there other sleep disorders I should know about?

There are more than 80 known sleep disorders. Insomnia is the most common; nearly a third of all adults experience some symptoms of insomnia. Sleep apnea is also quite common, affecting an estimated 26% of adults between the ages of 30 and 70

The other most common sleep disorders include:

  • Narcolepsy: Excessive daytime sleepiness that may result in falling asleep unexpectedly throughout the day
  • Restless leg syndrome: A tingling feeling in the legs. This often results in a strong urge to get up or move in order to alleviate the sensation.

Why should I visit a dentist for sleep medicine?

It might seem strange to visit a dentist to alleviate your sleep disorder. But if you suffer from sleep apnea, a dentist is often the most suitable person for the job

Sleep apnea has a lot to do with jaw position. When your jaw is improperly aligned at night, it causes the soft tissues to collapse. A dentist – particularly one who is specially trained in the treatment of craniofacial conditions can determine the correct jaw position to maintain free and healthy breathing

Practitioners who are not as familiar with head and jaw structure often recommend CPAP therapy. And while this can be effective, it also has numerous drawbacks. The bulky CPAP machines can be difficult to transfer. And patients often have difficulty sleeping with a mask. In contrast, oral appliances are small, subtle, and quite comfortable after a short adjustment period.

Contact Us to Learn More about Sleep Medicine 

If you believe you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, contact us for a diagnostic consultation. 

You can reach Dr. Mickiewicz’s office online or you can give us a call at 916-469-9178.