Do you feel sleepy during the day for no apparent reason? Do you experience loud snoring or wake up feeling breathless during the night? If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you may be among the 12 million Americans affected by sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes a person’s breathing to pause repeatedly during sleep. This can happen 20-30 times per hour. When breathing stops, the brain is alerted due to a lack of oxygen which causes a brief awakening to restore proper breathing. The brief awakening usually goes unnoticed, and many people with sleep apnea believe they are getting adequate sleep when they are not. The constant wake-sleep cycle prevents deep sleep, leading to daytime sleepiness.
What are the signs of sleep apnea?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign of sleep apnea. Please get in touch with our practice so we can assist you.
- Loud, chronic snoring
- Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep, often witnessed by others
- Gasping or choking sensations during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty concentrating or experiencing memory problems
- Irritability or mood changes
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up
- Restless sleep or frequent awakenings during the night
- Nighttime sweating
Are there different types of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea can be categorized into three types. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive (OSA). This occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses, blocking the airway and causing breathing difficulties. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is the less common type, where breathing stops because the brain fails to signal the muscles involved. Some individuals experience a mix of obstructive and central sleep apnea, known as “mixed” or “complex” sleep apnea.
What are the risk factors for sleep apnea?
Although sleep apnea is more common in males and older adults over 40, it can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. Risk factors include obesity, smoking, drinking, use of sedatives or tranquilizers, and family history. Central sleep apnea is most commonly seen in people with heart disorders, neuromuscular disorders, strokes, or brain tumors.
Is sleep apnea dangerous?
Sleep apnea is a severe medical issue that, if not treated, can result in high blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of heart failure and stroke. The persistent fatigue caused by sleep apnea can cause issues at work or school and pose a risk while driving or operating heavy machinery. Additionally, sleep apnea can lead to complications with medication or surgery. Sedation through anesthesia can be dangerous, as can lying flat in bed after an operation. If you believe you have sleep apnea, it is essential to inform your family doctor before taking prescribed medication or undergoing surgery.
How is sleep apnea treated?
The treatment for sleep apnea differs for each individual, depending on the severity and type of apnea. Behavioral changes like losing weight, quitting smoking, or sleeping on the side are essential treatments that can help. Oral devices may also be used to prevent throat blockage. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
What should I do if I suspect someone in my family suffers from sleep apnea?
If you have sleep apnea, contact us, and we’ll connect you with a specialist. The specialist may recommend a sleep study to diagnose your condition and provide proper treatment. Sometimes, we may create a custom oral device to help with your medicine.