Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing while you sleep. These interrupted pauses in breathing may occur up to over 30 times an hour, and often last from a few seconds to minutes. Typically, normal breathing begins again with loud snoring or even choking noises. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, making for excessive daytime tiredness. Studies show that 85% of those suffering from sleep apnea remain undiagnosed and untreated.

What are the different types of sleep apnea?

There are three different types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs because the airway becomes obstructed, preventing an adequate flow of air.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the proper signal to the muscles to take a breath while sleeping.

Mixed Sleep Apnea: This type of sleep apnea occurs when both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea are present.

What are the different severities of obstructive sleep apnea?

Mild OSA: The patient experiences 5-14 episodes of interrupted breathing in an hour.

Moderate OSA: The patient experiences 15-30 episodes of interrupted breathing in an hour.

Severe OSA: The patient experiences 30 or more interrupted breathing episodes within an hour.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring – This is one of the most obvious signs of potential OSA
  • Breathing cessations – Frequent breaks in breathing during sleep
  • Choking or gasping – Cessations in breathing are followed by sounds of choking or gasping for air as the body is fighting through the airway obstruction
  • Abrupt awakenings – This is usually accompanied by shortness of breath, which most likely indicates central sleep apnea
  • Morning headaches – These headaches stem from the loss of oxygen that flows to your brain from your irregular breathing patterns during the night
  • Difficulty staying asleep – Patients with OSA often have restless sleep and are constantly awakened during the night
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness – Poor sleep quality can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Irritability – Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your body and well-being, causing you to feel short tempered and irritable

What are the causes of sleep apnea?

There are many different factors that can cause sleep apnea. These include:

  • Weight – People who are overweight are more likely to have sleep apnea. The excess fatty tissues can build up in the neck and throat leading to restrictions in airflow.
  • Age – As you age, you lose muscle tone. As your throat muscles become weaker, they are more likely to collapse in your airway while sleeping.
  • Enlarged Tonsils/Adenoids – This is one of the leading causes of OSA.
  • Genetics – Some people are predisposed to having a narrow throat or an enlarged tongue.

What are the treatment options for sleep apnea?

Lifestyle Changes – In some cases, lifestyle modifications may be the most appropriate way for you to treat sleep apnea. Exercising, weight loss, avoidance of alcohol and sleeping on your side may relieve sleep apnea symptoms.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – CPAP devices are effective in treating sleep apnea if you have moderate to severe sleep apnea. A CPAP device is worn while the patient is sleeping and provides consistent air pressure through a mask, keeping the airway open. CPAP is the most common and reliable method of treating sleep apnea, however many people find it cumbersome or uncomfortable to use, and look for alternatives.

Oral Appliances – Another non-invasive sleep apnea treatment option is to wear an oral appliance. Oral appliances are designed to keep your throat open by bringing your jaw forward and stabilizing your tongue, which may relieve mild obstructive sleep apnea.

Surgery – Surgery is usually an option after other sleep apnea treatments have failed. The goal of surgery is to enlarge the airway through your nose and/or throat, correcting any anatomical problems that are causing airway obstruction.

Surgical options may include:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – During this procedure, tissue is removed from the rear of your mouth and top of your throat. Your tonsils and adenoids are usually removed as well.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation – A procedure that involves shrinking the tissues in the back of your throat with radiofrequency energy.
  • Nasal surgery – Surgery to remove polyps or straighten a deviated septum can help eliminate breathing problems when sleeping.

If you or your loved one appears to be suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to get diagnosed and treated, as sleep apnea can be life threatening. Dr. Prabhat Soni has years of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. A sleep study could improve your health, and even save your life. Schedule an appointment today to get the restful night's sleep you deserve.