Sleep Apnea Treatments
Helping You Get Some Rest
Do you snore? Do you often wake from a night’s sleep and still feel tired? Have you noticed that you are often drowsy or irritable during the day? You might be suffering from sleep apnea, a condition that affects over 20 million Americans. If left untreated, this common disorder can leave patients very ill. It can also be life-threatening.
What is it?
What happens during an episode of sleep apnea?
When a person suffers from sleep apnea, snoring is usually a symptom, but the real concern arises when snoring stops and the sleeper stops breathing. The body reacts to the imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, wakes the sleeper – even though they are often not aware of waking – and breathing starts again with a gasp. This pattern of snoring, breath cessation, waking, and gasping happens over and over again through the night.
Is all snoring sleep apnea?
Snoring does often accompany sleep apnea, but just because you snore does not mean you have sleep apnea. Snoring is simply a loud sound that you make during breathing while asleep if there is any obstruction in your airway.
Causes of obstructive sleep apnea
When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs. Generally, your throat muscles keep the throat and airway open.
Primary causes and risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea:
- Being overweight or obese (although 50% of people with sleep apnea are not obese)
- Large tonsils or adenoids
- Other distinctive physical attributes (deviated septum, shape of head and neck, receding chin, enlarged tongue)
- Nasal congestion or blockage (from cold, sinusitis, allergies, smoking, etc.)
- Throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal during sleep (possibly due to alcohol or sedatives or age)
- Obstructive sleep apnea does seem to run in families which may be a result of anatomic abnormalities or medical conditions that are genetic.
Who does it affect?
Surprisingly, 90% of people who have sleep apnea don’t know that they have it! Sleep breathing disorders can affect anyone: children, adolescents and adults. In spite of choking or gasping for air sometimes hundreds of times a night, you may not have any recollection of it. Your sleep partner is usually the first person to notice.
Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea
Warning signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Frequent silences during sleep due to breaks in breathing (apnea)
- Choking or gasping during sleep to get air into the lungs
- Loud snoring
- Sudden awakenings to restart breathing or waking up in a sweat
- Daytime sleepiness and feeling unrefreshed by a night’s sleep, including falling asleep at inappropriate times
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a very serious condition. It causes a drop in blood oxygen levels, which places stress on your heart and raises blood pressure. Sleep apnea also keeps you from properly entering REM sleep, the most restorative stage of nightly sleep. Sleep apnea has serious symptoms and health consequences including:
- Night time sweating
- Night time chest pain
- Restlessness while sleeping
- A feeling of waking unrefreshed
- A feeling of severe or excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Learning and memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heart failure or heart attack
- Sudden Death
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased risk for cancer
Are you affected?
Take our Questionnaires to see if you’re at risk.
How is it diagnosed and by whom?
Being diagnosed is the first important step toward treating your sleep apnea and finding better health. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, here are a few things you can do:
- Keep a diary noting the type of sleep your partner noticed and whether you feel refreshed in the morning.
- Use an audio recorder to record your sleep sounds.
- Consult a physician. If your doctor suspects sleep apnea, you may be referred to a clinic for an overnight sleep study.
- Talk to us at your next visit.
If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea or have taken our Sleep Apnea questionnaires and have symptoms, please call us today. We can assess your situation and refer you to a sleep specialist. Don’t hesitate…it could save your life!
- Self-help management – Minor sleep apnea is responsive to self-help remedies, or “behavioral treatments.” Some of the following self-help treatments for sleep apnea may work for you.
- Lose weight. Overweight individuals who lose even 10% of their weight can reduce sleep apnea and improve sleep quality.
- Stop using alcohol, tobacco, and sedatives, or anything that relaxes the muscles of the throat and encourages snoring.
- Sleep on your side. Special pillows or remedies that encourage side-sleeping, such as the “tennis ball trick,” might help people who only experience sleep apnea when they sleep on their back. See Snoring Causes and Cures for more tips.
- Elevate the head of your bed 4 -6 inches. This can alleviate snoring and make breathing easier.
- Maintain regular sleep hours.
- Use a nasal dilator, breathe right strips or saline nasal spray to help open nasal passages.
- CPAP machine -CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is the most widely recommended treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP entails wearing a mask-like device while you sleep, which provides pressurized air to prevent the airway from collapsing. Most CPAP units are the size of a tissue box and many now come with a built in humidifier for comfort.
While CPAP works very well in preventing apnea symptoms, many people find the apparatus uncomfortable and difficult to use. Luckily, recent advancements to CPAP technology have made these once cumbersome devices much lighter, quieter and much more comfortable.
- Oral Appliance Therapy – The challenge for Oral Appliance Therapy is determining which patients will respond favorably and where is the correct jaw position to achieve a favorable outcome. Dr. Collazo utilizes the MATRx Protocol to improve the efficacy of the oral appliance therapy and prevent appliance failures. In this protocol, a prototype appliance is fabricated and used during the sleep study to accurately identify not only the ideal jaw position for the best outcome but also patients who will fully benefit from oral appliance therapy.
- Surgery as Treatment – Surgery can increase the size of your airway. The surgeon may remove tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose. Or, the surgeon may reconstruct the jaw to enlarge the upper airway.
Surgery may be an effective option for some, and can even provide permanent relief from symptoms. However, any surgery carries risks of surgical complications and infections, and in some rare cases, symptoms can become worse after surgery. If you have exhausted other apnea treatment options, you may want to discuss surgical options with your doctor or sleep specialist.