- Sleep apnea is a sleep related breathing disorder that causes your body to stop breathing during sleep. Sleep Apnea occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway. This keeps air from getting in to the lungs.
- Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder. The muscles inside the throat relax as you sleep and gravity causes the tongue to fall back and block the airway. Blockage of the airway can happen a few times or several hundred times per night.
- Sleep Apnea can occur in men and women of any age, but it is most common in obese, middle-aged men. There is a strong relationship between weight and Sleep Apnea. Your neck gets thicker as you gain weight. This increases the level of fat in the back of the throat, narrowing the airway. With more fat in the throat, your airway is more likely to be blocked.
- People with Sleep Apnea are often obese and have a neck size of more than 17 inches. Many people with Sleep Apnea also have high blood pressure. Children with large tonsils may also have Sleep Apnea.
Self Evaluation. If your answer to each of these questions is yes, then you might have obstructive sleep apnea.
- Do you: unintentionally falling asleep during the day, general daytime sleepiness, un-refreshing sleep, fatigue or insomnia?
- Do you ever wake from sleep with a choking sound or gasping for breath?
- Has your bed partner noticed that you snore loudly or stop breathing while you sleep?
- Also, your sleep problems may be a result of one of the following: another sleep disorder, a medical condition, medication use, a mental health disorder or substance abuse.
Snoring. Almost all people with Sleep Apnea snore loudly, and about half of the people who snore loudly have Sleep Apnea. Snoring is a sign that your airway is being partially blocked. While you may not think you snore, ask the person who sleeps next to you. They can tell how often you snore and whether or not you stop breathing.
Daytime Sleepiness. Many people with Sleep Apnea are sleepy during the day. They find that they are still tired even after a nap. When you stop breathing, your body wakes up. It happens so quickly, you aren’t even aware of it. This disrupts your sleep process. You can stop breathing hundreds of times in one night. This will make you feel very tired the next day.
Seeing a Sleep Specialist. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that needs to be treated, will review your history and symptoms. If needed, they will schedule you for an overnight sleep study to help evaluate your problem. The doctor will need to know your symptoms and how long you have had them, and if your symptoms began when you gained weight or stopped exercising. Get information from those who sleep with you A sleep specialist can look for other conditions that may mimic or make the symptoms of Sleep Apnea worse.
Sleep Diary. You will also want to keep a sleep diary for two weeks. The sleep diary will help the doctor see your sleeping patterns. This information gives the doctor clues about what is causing your problem and how to correct it.
Testing. If your doctor thinks that you have a problem with breathing during sleep, then They will have you do an overnight sleep study. This study is called a polysomnogram. It will chart your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It will also record how your arms and legs move. This will reveal if you have Sleep Apnea. It will also show how bad the problem is.
If you have Sleep Apnea, you may be asked to return to the sleep center for a second polysomnogram. This time, you will be given continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment as you sleep. This is called a CPAP study.
- CPAP is the treatment most often used to treat Sleep Apnea. It is delivered through a mask worn over the nose or face. The air gently blows into the back of the throat. This keeps the airway open so you are able to keep breathing as you sleep. The amount of air pressure needed is different for each person.
- Weight Loss is very important as this decreases the amount of obstruction in the throat. Often a significant amount of weight loss is enough to stop the symptoms.
- Position Therapy may work for patients with mild Sleep Apnea. Staying off of the back while sleeping and raising the head of the bed may reduce symptoms.
- Oral Appliances. You can also sleep with an oral appliance in your mouth. This device is much like a sports mouth guard and is used to move the jaw forward. This causes the airway to stay open.
- Surgery is another option that may help a Sleep Apnea patient. The size of the upper airway is increased to prevent collapse of the airway and make breathing easier.
- Other Options. You will need to see a physician to discuss alternatives.
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