Do you find yourself sleepy during the day but don't understand why? Do people tell you that you snore loudly or catch yourself waking up breathless in the middle of the night? If either of those symptoms sounds like you, you may be among the twelve million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects the natural rhythm of your breathing and sleep cycle. This condition causes your breathing to stop periodically throughout the night, as many as 20-30 times for some. Every your breathing pauses, your reflexes kick in and alerts your brain to wake up and restart your breathing. Many people don't realize this is happening because the time spent awake is so brief, and even think they are sleeping just fine, while in actuality they are not. This constant waking throughout the night prevents your body from achieving deep sleep, and will make you feel drowsy throughout the day.
What are the signs of sleep apnea?
The following symptoms can indicate the presence of sleep apnea. If you have one or more of these, contact our practice for an evaluation.
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Loud snoring at night
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Extreme drowsiness throughout the day
Are there different types of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea can be categorized into three different types: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and "mixed or "complex" sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airflow to your lungs get blocked, usually by the soft tissues in the back of your throat. The air passing through the blocked airway will cause the tissues to vibrate, which makes the snoring sound. Central sleep apnea is much less common, and occurs when the muscles in charge of breathing don't receive the proper signals form the brain. The last type of sleep apnea is when one suffers from a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
What are risk factors for sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form of the sleep disorder and is typically more common in males over 40 years of age. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen to woman or younger people though, anyone can suffer from sleep apnea. Also obesity, smoking, drinking, sedatives, or tranquilizers, and family history can add to the risk factors. Central sleep apnea is more prone to people with heart disorders, neuromuscular disorders, strokes, or brain tumors. Central sleep apnea is also more common in males.
Is sleep apnea dangerous?
In short, yes. It is considered a serious medical problem that if left untreated could lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart failure and stroke. Not only are the long-term affects of sleep apnea bad, the short term affects of sleep deprivation can lead to problems at work or school, and be dangerous when driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep apnea could also lead to complications with medication or surgery. For example: sedation by anesthesia and laying flat on an operating table can be risky. If you think you may suffer from sleep apnea, let your doctor know before taking any prescriptions or having surgery.
How is sleep apnea treated?
The treatments can vary depending on each case, severity, person, and type of sleep apnea. If your symptoms are mild, losing weight and quitting cigarettes can lead to great results. Beyond that, we can provide relief by positioning an oral device in the mouth that prevents the throat blockage. A consultation with Dr. Johnson is the only way to find out which options is best, and the comfort you feel after speaking with a professional is worth the appointment!