What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.
There are three forms of Sleep Apnea:
1. Obstructive (OSA) – the most common form that occurs when throat muscles relax and block breathing
2. Central (CSA) - occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing
3. Complex or mixed sleep apnea – combination of the two
Untreated Sleep Apnea can:
Increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
Increase the risk of, or worsen, heart failure
Make arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, more likely
What are the symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
- Breathing pauses lasting from a few seconds to minutes. They often occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
- Snoring (in the case of OSA)
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
- Restless sleep
- Waking up with a very sore and/or dry throat
- Morning headaches
- Forgetfulness, mood changes, and a decreased interest in sex
- Recurrent awakenings or insomnia
How is Sleep Apnea diagnosed?
In making a diagnosis of Sleep Apnea, your doctor will ask you about your sleeping habits, how much sleep you get at night, if you wake up at night, and whether you fall asleep during the day. Your doctor will also want to know if you are having any emotional problems or are taking any drugs that may be interfering with your sleep.
Your doctor will also order some sleep tests, such as polysomnography (PSG or NPSG).
How is Sleep Apnea treated?
If you are diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, your doctor may suggest changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills, avoid sleeping on your back and to quit smoking.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure to keep the soft pallet and throat open during sleep. This is the most common treatment for Sleep Apnea.
Oral appliances – to position the jaw forward to keep the soft pallet and throat open during sleep.
Surgery – for the nose or throat to remove blockage or tissue or to tighten tissue.
Medications or supplemental oxygen in the case of CSA.