What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can be thought of as an extreme form of snoring. But unlike snoring, which is mostly a relationship or quality of life issue, sleep apnea is a disease with significant health implications. Snoring and sleep apnea both result from vibration of soft tissue in the throat. When we fall asleep, our muscles relax, and as we breathe through the relaxed tissues in the throat, they tend to vibrate. If they vibrate a little, we snore a little. If they vibrate a lot, we snore a lot. Sleep apnea occurs when they vibrate enough that the tissue repeatedly blocks the airway. This obstruction of tissue is what leads to the condition, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Why Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?
Sleep apnea is dangerous because it prevents a normal, restorative sleep. Every time an airway is blocked, your brain awakens (very briefly) and signals a re-opening of the airway. This disrupts normal sleep patterns and cycles. In addition, the stop breathing episodes can cause dangerous decreases in blood oxygen levels, robbing your brain and vital organs of the oxygen they require. Sleep apnea increases risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity, erectile dysfunction and even depression and anxiety. Sleep apnea is a serious disease, and if you have it, it is important that you get treatment.
Do I Have To Wear A CPAP Mask?
No, you don’t! CPAP is only one treatment option. While CPAP can be very effective, it is poorly tolerated. Studies show that fewer than 40% of patients actually wear CPAP regularly. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options that are much easier to live with. These minimally invasive options are what The Snoring Center specializes in.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are common sleep apnea symptoms?
Having a combination of the following sleep apnea symptoms can indicate you suffer from this condition:
- Loud snoring
- Stop breathing episodes while asleep
- Trouble breathing during sleep, including gasping for air
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Headaches in the morning
- Insomnia, or difficulty staying asleep
- Increasing, or excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
- High blood pressure
- Atrial Fibrillation
If you experience three or more of these sleep apnea symptoms consistently, you should contact the Snoring Center.
Can my primary care physician help, or do I need a sleep apnea specialist?
In order to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, you must undergo a sleep study. A sleep apnea specialist is best able to interpret the data from your sleep study, and to assess the severity. Once you’re diagnosed, an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor can determine the best treatment options.
What are the differences between mild sleep apnea and severe sleep apnea?
Each time your breathing is interrupted (for at least 10 seconds), it’s an episode of apnea. The severity of sleep apnea is determined by how often you stop breathing. If your breathing stops between one and 15 times an hour during sleep, it’s considered mild sleep apnea. Having over 30 interruptions a night is when your condition is considered severe sleep apnea. Mild sleep apnea is still a medical condition that should be assessed by a sleep apnea doctor, because even mild sleep apnea can be disruptive to your health and quality of life.
Can I identify sleep apnea myself or do I need a doctor for diagnosis?
Sleep apnea can be difficult to self diagnose. An official diagnosis from a certified doctor determines whether you have sleep apnea and the severity.
What other disorders are confused with Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the upper airway is partially or completely blocked. It is the most common form of sleep apnea, but other disorders are likely to be confused by non-medical doctors.
Central sleep apnea, which is far less common than obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the brain isn’t sending the proper breathing signals to the rest of the body during sleep. In other words, there is nothing blocking airflow, rather a person simply doesn’t breath. Causes vary, but medical conditions such as stroke and heart attack along with medications like opioids can cause this condition. High altitudes have also been known to cause central sleep apnea.
Any breathing trouble during sleep needs to be assessed by a doctor before symptoms get worse.