Sleep apnea is a common, serious sleeping disorder that happens when regular breathing is interrupted during sleep. Snoring is common among patients with sleep apnea. However, not all people who snore have sleep apnea.
TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA
There are two main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea – This more common form results from blocked airflow during sleep, usually when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses while you sleep. Health factors, like obesity, may contribute to this form of sleep apnea.
- Central Sleep Apnea – Results from a problem with how the brain signals breathing muscles. The airway is not blocked. Instead, the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. This type of sleep apnea can occur with heart failure, brain tumors, brain infections, and stroke.
SYMPTOMS OF SLEEP APNEA
- Loud snoring.
- Breathing interruptions, witnessed by others.
- Sudden awakening due to shortness of breath.
- The patient awakens with a sore or dry throat.
- Headaches in the morning.
- Hypersomnia, or excessive sleep throughout the day.
- Difficulty paying attention.
- Irritable mood.
ARE YOU AT RISK FOR SLEEP APNEA?
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age. However, men are more likely to develop the disorder. The risk is also greater for those:
- Who are over 40.
- Who are overweight.
- With large tonsils, large tongue, or small jaw.
- With a family history of sleep apnea.
- With a nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems.
HEALTH RISKS OF SLEEP APNEA
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in several health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart attack
- Worsening ADHD
TREATMENTS FOR SLEEP APNEA
Sleep apnea can be treated. There are several options:
- Adjusting Sleeping Habits – This may mean simply not sleeping on your back.
- Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) – This is a device that improves breathing while you sleep. The device supplies air through the nasal passages. The air pressure keeps the airway open while sleeping.
- Oral Appliances – Certain oral devices shift and support the jaw to prevent the airway from collapsing. Research shows that oral appliances can successfully prevent sleep apnea in some mild to moderate cases.
- Surgery – According to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, upper airway surgery may be recommended when other treatment options are unsuccessful in eliminating sleep apnea symptoms. Depending on the airway obstruction’s location and nature, the procedure may be minimally invasive or more complex. It may be necessary to remove the tonsils, parts of the soft palate, or throat.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, it is important to be checked. The sooner you start treatment to ease the symptoms, the better. Timely treatment may prevent future complications. Your first step is to call your primary care physician to schedule a consultation, as referrals are required for treatment.