Patients with sleep apnea have a medical condition that stops their breathing temporarily while they sleep. This can happen as many as 30–40 times per hour and for as long as 90–120 seconds at a time.
Sleep apnea affects more than 12 million Americans of all ages. Unfortunately, due to lack of awareness, the majority go untreated because they don’t even know they have it.
What are the three types of sleep apnea?
- Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type, occurs when blockage, usually soft tissue, in the rear of the throat causes the throat to collapse and close during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when muscles that control breathing fail to receive the proper signals from the brain.
- Mixed sleep apnea refers to both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
With any type of sleep apnea, untreated patients repeatedly stop breathing throughout their sleep. The brain responds by waking the individual so that breathing can resume, but frequent stops and starts throughout the night causes fragmented patterns of low-quality sleep.
Patients with sleep apnea constantly feel drowsy during the day, which can lead to poor job performance and motor vehicle crashes. If left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, weight gain, memory loss, impotency, and headaches plus a myriad of life-threatening medical conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can include the following symptoms:
- Choking sounds during the night
- Night bruxism
- Morning headaches
- Drowsiness during the day
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
Over 70% of people that snore have sleep apnea. If you suspect you or a family member has sleep apnea, please call us and make an appointment for a consultation. Many patients are unaware that they have it, and a family member that lives with their snoring refers them to our practice.
Through a questionnaire and simple oral exam, we can determine if a sleep lab should examine and diagnose you. At this time, we cannot make a diagnosis, but we can screen and recognize the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea.
Your doctor will use a combination of factors to diagnose sleep apnea, including a complete medical and family history, physical exam, and sleep study, which involves an overnight stay at a sleep center for constant monitoring.
Your doctor may also use a polysonogram to record brain activity, eye movement, muscle movement, heart rate, breathing patterns, and oxygen levels.
Treatment for sleep apnea varies depending on the severity. For milder cases, simple lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or losing weight, may improve the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. Sleeping on your side with the help of a postural device or opening the airway with an oral appliance can help as well.
People with severe cases of sleep apnea may need devices such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or surgery.
What is CPAP?
A CPAP (See-pap) machine delivers air pressure through a mask that you wear over your nose while you sleep. The increased pressure of air helps keep the upper airway passages open to prevent apnea and snoring. Although preferred, some patients find CPAP uncomfortable. Minor adjustments or a different mask may alleviate any discomfort.
What are non-surgical treatments?
Non-surgical methods for sleep apnea include:
- Adjustable airway devices that automatically adjust your air pressure as you inhale and exhale
- Oral appliances designed to keep your throat open and allow air to pass more freely in and out of your lungs