What is Sleep Apnea? By Paul Fulmer, MD

It seems more and more in the media we are hearing about the increasing rise in Sleep Apnea!  Why is that?  What is Sleep Apnea?  Do I have it?  These are all questions that come to mind every time another commercial, news story or article touts the problems and cures for this condition.

One of the primary reasons sleep apnea is on the rise in our country is because of the increase in obesity.  There is a direct correlation between weight and severity of sleep apnea.  Interestingly though even thin, athletic people can suffer from sleep apnea due to their anatomy.  So it can really affect anyone!

The common symptoms of Sleep Apnea are loud snoring, observed pauses or stops in breathing at night, daytime tiredness, high blood pressure and morning headaches.

Sleep Apnea is caused by an obstruction of airflow to the lungs during sleep.  It is often accompanied by very loud snoring followed by pauses in breathing for longer than 10 seconds. As we reach a deep level of sleep, our muscle tone relaxes and we rest.  However, when we loose muscle tone, this can cause obstruction of airflow if there is excessive tissue collapsing in the back of the throat.  This causes a decrease in oxygen to the body, stressing our heart, and making us to wake into a lighter level of sleep to open our airway.  Therefore, our sleep is disrupted and we wake up tired and not refreshed.

The least invasive and most effective treatment is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure).  CPAP relieves the obstruction by delivering positive pressure, via a mask while you sleep.  The problem with this approach is that it is only tolerated about half the time. 

Fortunately, over the last 10 years several minimally invasive procedures have been developed which improve nasal and oral airflow and help alleviate the obstruction caused during sleep.  These procedures can be done in the office, under local anesthesia and you can return to regular activities that same day.

If you are suffering from constant fatigue, have been told you snore loudly or stop breathing at night, or just are concerned that you aren’t getting good sleep?   Give us a call. (1-855DrSnore).  A simple at home sleep study can confirm if you have Sleep Apnea and then a board certified ENT can discuss your options and get you on your way to sleeping better that day!

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