Do you sometimes feel drowsy during the day without knowing why? Do you wake up breathless in the night to the sound of your own snoring? More than 12 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea and these symptoms indicate you could be one of them.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a medical condition wherein the individual’s breathing stops periodically during the night, sometimes as frequently as 20-30 times per hour. Each time the person’s breathing stops, the resulting lack of oxygen signals the brain that there’s something wrong. The brain then send out signals to awaken the sleeper and restart their breathing. So little time is spent during the awake portion of that cycle that many are unaware they even woke up. Many believe they have slept through the night when, in fact, they may have been startled awake by this lack of proper oxygen dozens of times. This constant wake-sleep cycle deprives the individual with sleep apnea from achieving the deep sleep necessary to be completely refreshed and rested the following day.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
The following are signs you may have Sleep Apnea. If you notice one or more of these, contact our practice for a consultation.
Snoring loudly during the night
Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
Waking up during the night short of breath
Hearing yourself make choking or snorting sounds during the night (this indicates a resumption of breathing)
Headaches upon waking up in the morning
Extreme drowsiness during daytime hours
Unintentionally falling asleep during the day
What are the Types of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea falls into three categories.
The most common, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs due to a physical blockage restricting the flow of air, usually the collapsing of the soft tissue at the back of the throat.
A less common form is central sleep apnea (CSA). Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to send the proper signals to the muscles involved.
When the individual suffers from a combination of CSA and OSA they are said to have “mixed” or “complex” sleep apnea.
Who is Most Likely to Have Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is more likely to affect men than women. It’s more common in adults forty years of age or older than it is in younger adults or children.
Other risk factors are family history of sleep apnea, obesity, smoking, the use of sedatives or the use of tranquilizers. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs most often in people with heart conditions, neuromuscular disorders, brain tumors or strokes.
How Serious is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a medical problem that, if left untreated, can lead to high blood pressure and an increased likelihood of heart failure and stroke. The drowsiness and fatigue caused by lack of proper sleep can lead to accidents and problems at work, home and school. Sleep apnea can also cause complications during surgery and sedation by anesthesia.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, let your doctor know before you take any prescribed medication or have surgery.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Treatments vary depending on the severity of the case and the type of apnea. The basic treatment can address behavior and lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, smoking cessation, or changing the position in which the individual sleeps. Additionally certain oral devices can be used to position the mouth in a way to prevent throat blockage. Only in the most severe cases is surgery considered to be an option.
What should I do if I suspect that I or someone in my family may have sleep apnea?
Contact our office. We can discuss your situation, diagnosis and treatment options.
Call us today – (703) 848-8906