How to Spot Sleep Apnea Early

Sleep is more than a “time out” from your busy routine. Sleep is an important contributor to good health, mental and emotional wellness and safety. When you sleep well, you wake up feeling refreshed, alert and ready for your day. But when sleep is poor, it can have a big impact–not just on your daily routine, but on your overall health.


Memorial Hospital has been providing Sleep Diagnostic testing since 1998.

What we offer:

  • Sleep Diagnostic Testing and treatment of all sleep disorders

  • Home Sleep Studies

  • Education on the many sleep disorders

  • Support services for patients with CPAP systems


Knowing When to Seek Help

If you have a sleep problem that lasts for longer than a week, or if sleepiness is getting in the way of how you feel and function during the day, do something today to address it.

Contact your Family Physician to discuss your symptoms.


Do you find yourself struggling to feel rested?

Do you have mood and memory problems?

Sleep apnea affects 18 million Americans


Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. The airway repeatedly becomes blocked, limiting the amount of air that reaches your lungs. When this happens, you may snore loudly or making choking noises as you try to breathe. Your brain and body becomes oxygen deprived and you my wake up. This may happen a few times a night, or in more severe cases, several hundred times a night.


In many cases, an apnea, or temporary pause in breathing, is caused by the tissue in the back of the throat collapsing. The muscles of the upper airway relax when you fall asleep. If you sleep on your back, gravity can cause the tongue to fall back. This narrows the airway, which reduces the amount of air that can reach your lungs. The narrowed airway causes snoring by making the tissue in back of the throat vibrate as you breathe.


Sleep apnea can make you wake up in the morning feeling tired or unrefreshed even though you have had a full night of sleep. During the day, you may feel fatigued, have difficulty concentrating or you may even unintentionally fall asleep. This is because your body is waking up numerous times throughout the night, event though you might not be conscious of each awakening.


The lack of oxygen your body receives can have negative long-term consequences for your health. This includes:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes

  • Depression

There are many people with sleep apnea who have not been diagnosed or received treatment. A sleep medicine physician can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea using an in-lab sleep study or a home sleep apnea test. Sleep apnea is manageable using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), the front-line treatment for sleep apnea. Oral appliance therapy or surgery may also be an option for management.


Obstructive sleep apnea in adults is considered a sleep-related breathing disorder. Causes and symptoms differ for obstructive sleep apnea in children and central sleep apnea.


Symptoms

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is snoring. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Snoring is likely to be a sign of sleep apnea when it is followed by silent breathing pauses and choking or gasping sounds.


People with sleep apnea often have daytime sleepiness or fatigue.


Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud or frequent snoring

  • Silent pauses in breathing

  • Choking or gasping sounds

  • Unrefreshed sleep

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Morning headaches

  • Nocturia (waking during the night to go to the bathroom)

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Memory loss

  • Decreased sexual desire

  • Irritability

Risk Factors

The major risk factor for sleep apnea is excess body weight. You are much more likely to have sleep apnea if you are overweight or obese. However, sleep apnea can occur in slim people too. Common risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Excess weight - Your risk for sleep apnea is higher if you are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more or obese with a BMI of 30 or higher.

  • Large neck size - Your risk for sleep apnea is higher if you have a neck size of 17 inches or more for men, or 16 inches or more for women. A large neck has more soft tissue that can block your airway during sleep.

  • Middle age - Sleep apnea can occur at any age. However, it is more common between young adulthood and middle age.

  • Male gender - Sleep apnea is more common in men than in women. For women the risk of sleep apnea increases with menopause.

  • Hypertension - High blood pressure is extremely common in people who have sleep apnea.

  • Family history - Sleep apnea is a heritable condition. This means that you have a higher risk of sleep apnea if a family member also has it. Inherited traits that increase the risk for sleep apnea include obesity and physical features such as a recessed jaw. Other common family factors - such as physical activity and eating habits - also may play a role.


Sleep Apnea - Treatment

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that needs to be treated. A board certified sleep physician can help you select a treatment plan that is right for you. Depending on the treatment, he or she may work in collaboration with other members of the sleep team, including dentists, physiologists, physician assistants, nurses and technologists. Your plan may include any combination of these treatments:



CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)

CPAP is a machine that uses steady stream of air to gently keep your airway open throughout he night so you are able to breathe. You sleep with a mask with a hose that is attached to a machine kept at the bedside. Masks and machines may vary depending on your treatment and comfort needs. CPAP is the front-line treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and is recommended for the majority of cases.


Oral Appliance Therapy

An oral appliance is a device that fits in your mouth over your teeth while you sleep. It may resemble a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. The device prevents the airway from collapsing by holding the tongue in position or by sliding your jaw forward so that you can breathe when you are asleep. Some patients prefer sleeping with an oral appliance to a CPAP machine. A dentist trained in dental sleep medicine can fit you with an oral appliance after you are diagnosed with sleep apnea. Oral appliance therapy is recommended for a patient with mild apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP.


Surgery

Surgical therapies are no as effective in treating sleep apnea as CPAP and oral appliances. There are a variety of surgical options you can elect to have if CPAP or oral appliance therapy does not work for you. The most common options reduce or eliminate the extra tissue in your throat that collapse and blocks your airway during sleep. More complex procedures can adjust your bone structures including the jaw, nose and facial bones. Weight loss surgery may also be an option. Talk to your sleep medicine physician about what surgery is right for you.


Weight Management

In some cases weight loss can help improve or eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms if you are overweight or obese. Overweight people often have thick necks with extra tissue in the throat that may block the airway. There is no guarantee that losing weight will eliminate your sleep apnea, though it may help. This approach is unlikely to make a difference in patients with a narrow nasal passage or airway.


Positional Therapy

Positional therapy is a behavioral strategy to treat positional sleep apnea. Some people have sleep apnea primarily when sleeping on their back. This is called the “supine” position. Their breathing returns to normal when they sleep on their side. Positional therapy may involve wearing a special device around your waist or back. It keeps you sleeping in the side position. Positional therapy can be used alone or together with another sleep apnea treatment.


Lifestyle Changes

There are a variety of lifestyle changes that you can make to help you reduce your snoring and improve your sleep apnea symptoms. Behavioral changes such as quitting smoking or not drinking alcohol may improve sleep apnea symptoms. Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles which can cause you to snore or for your airway to collapse. If you have allergies, taking a decongestant before you go to bed may help improve airflow through your nose.


If you have difficulty staying with your treatment plan or cannot sleep even with treatment, your doctor may recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A behavioral sleep specialist will help you eliminate the thoughts and behaviors that are preventing you from getting restful sleep or complying with your treatment.


Source: https://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders/obstructive-sleep-apnea/

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