Do you have trouble staying asleep at night? You could be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs as the airway is obstructed and there are interruptions in your sleep patterns. Many patients don’t even know they suffer from sleep apnea, but some symptoms include excessive snoring, daytime fatigue and headaches. Treatment for sleep apnea depends on the severity and other associated issues. Learn how to recognize sleep apnea and what you can do to treat it with this guide!
Forms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder in the United States that affects millions of people. While most patients are aware of their sleep apnea, many patients suffer from the consequences of uncontrolled sleep apnea because they’re not even aware that they have it. Sleep apnea is described as a cessation of breathing that creates pauses in your sleep to occur randomly from 10 seconds to longer. These pauses cause a stoppage of oxygen flow in the body that can cause long-term health problems, if untreated. There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and complex. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form that occurs whenever throat muscles relax, while central sleep apnea occurs whenever the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Complex sleep apnea occurs whenever someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea, but is not as common.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by obstructions in the airway from obesity, enlarged tonsils, nasal obstruction, or a very large tongue. Since it is the most common form, obstructive sleep apnea is highly studied, especially as more people become at-risk for developing it. Currently, more than 20 million Americans have untreated obstructive sleep apnea, with more people being added to the list each day as obesity increases among the population. These numbers are frightening, especially since sleep apnea is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart attack, which can be deadly. Being evaluated for sleep apnea as soon as you notice any signs/symptoms is one of the most important steps in properly diagnosing and treating the sleep disorder.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of sleep apnea vary from person to person, but there is a list of common things to look out for that suggest that you might have sleep apnea. Some signs include:
- Frequent loud snoring
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Reduced or absent breathing while sleeping
- Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Dry mouth or headaches when waking
- Difficulty paying attention when awake
- Increase in anxiety or depression
- Loss of libido
Sleep apnea symptoms may be different for women and children compared to men. Women who suffer from sleep apnea might report more headaches, depression, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia while children will sometimes suffer from bedwetting, asthma, hyperactivity, and struggling academic performances. Loud snoring is a big predictor of sleep apnea, but not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. If you or your child has any of these signs and/or symptoms, it is important to meet with your doctor so that you can be evaluated for sleep apnea early on.
Treating Sleep Apnea
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, whichever form that it may be, there are treatment options available for you. Depending on which kind you have and the severity of it, your doctor will advise using certain instruments while sleeping, such as a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure, and helps pressurize the air to keep the throat open while sleeping. Weighing around 5 pounds, a CPAP machine is portable and is used by wearing a small mask over the nose. A tube is connected to the mask in which a stream of air and pressure flows through to keep the airway open. CPAP machines are only used when prescribed by a doctor, but small changes in your daily life, such as weight loss and exercise, can resolve sleep apnea on its own. You may be counseled on the influence of hormonal disorders, such as the thyroid or testosterone levels, and how they can influence the occurrence of sleep apnea. Mandibular advancement devices (MAD) resemble mouth guards and are also used to treat sleep apnea by holding the jaw down so that the airway can remain open. In cases where the throat is blocked by an organ like the tonsils, surgery may be necessary to remove the enlarged tonsils and unblock the airway. Your treatment will depend entirely on which form of sleep apnea you have, what other parts of the body are being affected and what your doctor recommends.
Get Tested Today
Getting enough sleep and being rested are important parts of developing a healthy body and lifestyle. Sleep apnea can prevent you from achieving optimal health and wellness, and has negative long-term effects. If you believe you may have sleep apnea, call Balanced Well-Being Healthcare at (970) 631-8286 to schedule an appointment. Dr. Alessi and her experienced staff are dedicated to helping you and your family receive excellent care at a great price. Start your journey to health and wellness by calling today!