WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
Sleep apnea is a very common, potentially serious condition in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. When you stop breathing during sleep, the lack of oxygen signals your brain which temporarily wakes you up and restarts proper breathing. However, individuals with sleep apnea may wake up tens to hundreds of times during the night without realizing it. This means that the brain, and the rest of the body, may not be getting all the oxygen it needs to function. The constant cycling of wake-sleep, coupled with the lack of oxygen to the brain, causes individuals with sleep apnea to feel constantly drowsy and extremely tired throughout the day.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF SLEEP APNEA?
One or more of these symptoms present could indicate sleep apnea. If you are experiencing symptoms, feel free to contact us for more information.
Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Frequent loud snoring
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
- Extreme daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Decreased attention, vigilance, concentration, and motor skills
- Waking up during the night to urinate often
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA?There are three categories of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form and is a result of physical blockage, usually the collapsing soft tissue in the back of the throat. This form of apnea occurs in approximately four percent of men and two percent of women. Less common is central sleep apnea (CSA), which is estimated to be around 20% or less of all sleep apnea cases. With this form of apnea, breathing stops because the muscles involved aren’t receiving a proper brain signal. Lastly, some people suffer from “mixed” or “complex” sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central apneas.
WHAT ARE RISK FACTORS FOR SLEEP APNEA?
Sleep apnea is seen more frequently among men than in women, and is more common in older adults (40+) than younger adults and children. Risk factors that increase the chance of sleep apnea include obesity, smoking, drinking, and family history. Untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, weight gain, headaches, and in severe cases, even job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.
IS SLEEP APNEA DANGEROUS?
Sleep apnea can become a serious medical problem if left untreated. Without treatment, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, weight gain, headaches, and in severe cases, the fatigue can even cause job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Complications with medication or surgery also may arise as sedation and lying flat in bed can worsen sleep apnea. If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, contact your family doctor before taking prescribed medications or having surgery.
HOW IS SLEEP APNEA TREATED?
For milder cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes can be enough to treat the condition. Patients may be recommended to lose weight, quit smoking, and sleep on their sides rather than their backs. If those measures don’t improve the symptoms, other treatments are available. Many patients use a Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine which delivers air pressure through a mask while they sleep. The air pressure in the mask is positioned in a way that prevents throat blockage and keeps airway passages open. In severe cases, surgery is an option if all other treatments have failed.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT THAT SOMEONE IN MY FAMILY SUFFERS FROM SLEEP APNEA?
Contact our practice and we can refer you to a sleep apnea specialist. To diagnose the issue, the specialist may ask you to participate in a sleep study and will recommend the appropriate treatment. If your treatment involves an oral device, we would be happy custom-create it for you.