What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder, occurs intermittently and repeatedly interrupts breathing. When one has this condition, the affected person might find that they snore very loudly and feel completely drained after only several hours of sleep a night – but even if you find yourself falling asleep at work or missing meetings because you can never seem to stay awake throughout your entire shift with no noticeable signs of drowsiness beforehand, there’s still hope because this debilitating problem can be treated.
Some of the most common forms of sleep apnea are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is more commonly a form of the condition where throat muscles relax and block breathing.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This can be a serious condition that can impact your health and well-being.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is when a person who has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea develops.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to seek medical treatment. Sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications, so receiving treatment can help reduce your risk of developing serious problems.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Sleep Apnea?
As is the case with many other sleep problems, your doctor will first want to rule out other causes of your sleep apnea symptoms. In order to do this, they’ll conduct a complete physical and sleep evaluation.
- Ask if you have taken any pain relievers recently or will be undergoing surgery within the next few weeks.
- Look for other causes or conditions that may explain your symptoms.
- If you have been traveling or will be traveling to altitudes higher than 6,000 feet, you may want to ask your doctor whether it could cause symptoms of sleep apnea. Travelling high in altitude might trigger sleep apnea in those who suffer from this disorder.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have potentially life-threatening consequences. It is important to see a doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. With proper treatment, most people with sleep apnea can enjoy a good night’s sleep and improve their overall health and well-being.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
If you have sleep apnea, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on the severity of your condition. For mild cases, lifestyle changes may be all that is necessary. This might include losing weight, quitting smoking, or treating nasal allergies.
If your symptoms are not relieved by these measures or if you have a moderate to severe case of sleep apnea, your doctor will recommend other treatments.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): This device forms uninterrupted airflow that covers your mouth during sleep. The air pressure is increased by the lifts than the air around you, thus preventing your upper airway from collapsing to stop snoring and sleep apnea. If your CPAP mask is uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about other options to help you sleep.
Other airway pressure devices: If that CPAP machine does not give you the effects you need, you can attempt a device that automatically adjusts the pressure while you rest, referred to as auto-CPAP. BPAP units, which supply bilevel positive airway pressure, are another choice that supplies your body more pressure as you inhale and less as you exhale.
Oral appliances: If you are seeking an alternative to CPAP treatment for your sleep apnea, you may want to consider wearing an oral appliance. Oral appliances can help keep your throat open and improve your sleep quality. However, CPAP machines are generally more effective at treating sleep apnea. Your dentist can help you find an oral appliance that is right for you and your needs.
Supplemental oxygen: If you have central sleep apnea, you may need to use supplemental oxygen when you sleep. Different forms of oxygen and devices are available to help deliver it to your lungs.
Treatment of other medical conditions may be used if you want to treat the condition of central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea can be caused by disease or defects in the brain or nerves. Treating these conditions may also help control the symptoms of your sleep apnea.
Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV): ASV can be used instead of CPAP machine. And in most cases, it works better than any other treatment method to normalize one’s breathing pattern so that they can sleep comfortably through the night. An ASV seems to work best for complex sleep apnea patients and people with central sleep apnea but not for those who also have advanced heart failure.
Surgery: If other treatment options do not help, your doctor may suggest surgery. You will typically choose to proceed with surgery only if necessary if other treatments, such as alternative therapies, have not helped your sleep apnea for over 3 months or if you have a particular jaw structure issue. Possibilities for surgery may include tissue removal, tissue shrinkage, jaw repositioning, implants, nerve stimulation, and tracheostomy (or creating a new airway passage).
Massive tonsils or adenoid removal surgeries and weight loss procedures can reduce snoring and improve sleep apnea management.
Who gets sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects approximately 25% of men and nearly 10% of women. It can affect people of all ages, including babies and children, and is particularly common in people over the age of 50 and those who are overweight.
Certain physical traits, such as being overweight or having a structural abnormality in the upper airway, are common among patients with obstructive sleep apnea. They may also include excessive tonsils, a small chin or soft palate, enlarged adenoids, or a low chin with a narrow opening.
What Are the Health Risks of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea may lead to sleep deprivation because people get interrupted nightly and their sleep isn’t very deep. Lack of sleep is associated with a variety of adverse health effects that affect a person physically, mentally, and emotionally, and as a result, it is not surprising sleep apnea has been related to diverse health concerns.
Because sleep apnea can disrupt oxygen balance in the body, it can increase the risk for various cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.