Obstructive sleep apnea (O.S.A.) is a very common and serious sleep disorder which causes you to stop breathing while asleep.
Your airway is repeatedly blocked, thus limiting the amount of air that can reach your lungs.
When this takes place, you may find yourself making choking noises or snoring loudly as you try to breathe. Your body and brain become oxygen deprived and you may try to wake up.
This can happen several times in the night, and in some severe cases, it can occur several hundred times in a single night.
In a majority of cases, a temporary pause in breathing, or an apnea is caused by the tissue in the back of the throat falling down. The upper airway’s muscles relax when you fall asleep.
In case you sleep on your back, gravity can make the tongue fall back. This makes the airway narrow and this can reduce significantly the amount of air that can reach your lungs.
Snoring is caused by the narrowed airway making the tissue in the back of your throat vibrate as you breathe. (Click Here For 11 Natural Treatments For Snoring)
A Brief Overview Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can make you feel unrefreshed or tired in the morning when you wake up. Even though, you had a full night of sleep.
In the course of the day, you may feel exhausted, unintentionally fall asleep, or have difficulty in concentrating.
This is because the body is waking up several times throughout the night, even though you might not be aware of each awakening.
Different Types of Sleep Apnea
O.S.A (Obstructive sleep apnea) is the most common type of sleep apnea. In OSA, regular breathing is disrupted by an obstacle in the airway of the throat, mouth, and nose.
Central sleep apnea is the less common type, and in this one, nothing is blocking the airway; however, the brain does not send alert to your breathing muscles to keep on moving.
Some people may have the two type of sleep apnea at once, in scenarios like these, it is referred to as mixed sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
There are numerous symptoms of sleep apnea that you can watch out if you suspect that you might be suffering from this disorder.
Fragmented sleep is a major symptom of sleep apnea; individuals with sleep apnea will wake up each morning feeling tired, even if they have been sleeping for the usual recommended time- 8 hours.
Sleep apnea can result in low blood oxygen in the morning since the body has been starved of oxygen, the whole night.
After a period of time, an individual with sleep apnea will develop problems with their memory, suffer from hypertension, or develop heart disease.
Sleep apnea can be extremely dangerous for those who drive, as they will usually be driving in a drowsy state.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
A certified sleep physician can identify obstructive sleep apnea using a home sleep apnea test or an in-lab sleep study. The physician has expertise and training in both diagnosing and treating sleep apnea.
The doctor must know your symptoms, and if they started when you stop exercising or when you gained weight. You can also ask your roommate or partner if they have heard you making choking noises or snoring loudly in your sleep.
You may also have to keep a sleep diary for a period of two weeks.
This includes information regarding the time you go to bed each night, what time you wake up in the morning and the number of times you wake up every night. This helps the doctor to understand your sleep patterns as it may have clues on how best diagnose whether you have a sleep problem.
Risk Factors Associated With Sleep Apnea
A common fallacy is that sleep apnea only affects men who are older and overweight.
This widely-held assumption is entirely wrong as anyone can have sleep apnea, regardless of body type, age, and gender. In case you have the following traits you may be at an even greater risk:
• Hypertensive– For people who have sleep apnea, high blood pressure is very common.
• Family history– This condition can appear more frequently among family members. This can be a result of either common lifestyles or inherited traits.
• Smoker- People who smoke are at a higher risk of getting sleep apnea.
• Being male– Men have a greater risk of having apnea when compared to women.
• Old age (50+ for women, 40+ for men) – Sleep apnea often occurs in older people, especially those that are above 60 years old.
• Large neck size (more than 16 Inches for women, more than 17 inches for men) – A large neck means that your airway might be blocked easily by fatty tissues.
• Excess weight- An adult who has a BMI of above 25 is medically considered to be overweight. One risks getting sleep apnea if he/she is overweight.
Treating Sleep Apnea
A certified sleep physician can assist you in selecting a treatment plan that is appropriate for you. Depending on the treatment, the physician can work in collaboration with other members of staff, including technologists, nurses, physician assistants, psychologists, and dentist.
Your treatment plan can include the combination of the following treatment approaches:
1. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
This is a machine which uses a steady stream of air to keep your airway open throughout the night so that you are able to breathe comfortably.
You will sleep with a mask with a hose which is attached to a machine that is kept at your bedside.
2. Oral Appliance Therapy
In this approach, the oral appliance fits your mouth over your teeth as you sleep.
The device prevents the airway from collapsing by holding the tongue in place or by sliding your jaw forward so that you can easily breathe while asleep. (Click Here To See Which Device We Recommend)
Surgery can be used to eliminate or reduce the extra tissue in your throat which collapses and blocks the airway while you are asleep.
Other treatment plans include:
- Weight management
- Positional therapy
- Lifestyle changes
Why Is It Important To Treat Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is an extremely dangerous sleep disorder that must be treated. This is because the lack of oxygen that the body experiences with this disorder, can have negative long-term consequences such as:
- Pre-diabetes and diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
When people who have this disorder look at the options that are available for treatment today, a majority of them will be tempted not to select any of them.
The dental appliances and masks must be worn every night and the surgeries are very painful and expensive, and there is no guarantee that they will be effective.
However, when one considers the severe consequences of not receiving treatment, it makes sense to seek medical help.
If you think that someone you know has obstructive sleep apnea, advise them to visit a certified physician as soon as possible and discuss their symptoms.