Understanding Sleep Apnea Disorder
To understand what it feels like to suffer from sleep apnea disorder, just hold your breath for 30 seconds. Now do it again 300 more times. This approximates the stress that is placed on your heart and lungs. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that occurs when there are abnormal blockages in breathing during sleep. Apnea basically means there is a loss of breathing during sleep.
Causes of Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Certain sleep apnea symptoms consist of structural problems with the airway may cause breathing interruptions in breathing during sleep. In some people, sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep and partially block the opening of the airway. When the muscles of the soft palate at the base of the tongue and the uvula (the small fleshy tissue hanging from the center of the back of the throat) relax and sag, the airway becomes blocked, making breathing labored and noisy and even stopping it altogether. Sleep apnea can also occur in obese people when an excess amount of tissue in the airway causes it to be narrowed. This blocking of the tongue and throat can be complete (apnea) or nearly complete (hypopnea).
What is the difference between Sleep Apnea Disorder and snoring?
If you snore in your sleep, it does not necessarily mean you have sleep apnea disorder. But snoring may be a symptom of a more serious problem.
Is a sleep apnea sufferer always aware of a breathing problem?
No. An individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. The problem is most always identified by a sleep partner who witnesses this form of dangerous snoring. Sleep apnea symptoms may be present for years without the cause being diagnosed.
Are there other symptoms of Sleep Apnea Disorder?
Yes. Sleep apnea symptoms may include fatigue, body pain and daytime sleepiness.
Other sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Awakening feeling tired
- More frequent trips to the bathroom during the night to urinate
- Waking with headaches or sweating
- High blood pressure
- Increased stomach acid
- Decreased memory
- Reduced energy
- Poor focus
- More problems regulating blood sugar
- Feelings of depression
Are there different forms of Sleep Apnea Disorder?
Yes. We classify sleep apnea disorder as either central or obstructive. Although any type of obstructive breathing during sleep may be deemed upper airway resistance, a pre-apnea condition that involves a progressive narrowing of the airway during sleep is referred to as upper airway resistance. A less serious form is RERAs (short for respiratory effort related arousals). RERAs may create occasional sleepiness/tiredness but do not have the health risks associated with full blown sleep apnea disorder.
How do these various forms of Sleep Apnea differ?
Central sleep apnea is the least common variety. It means that the brain (central nervous system) does not provide the regular signal to breathe. If patients have heart failure, often described as Cheyne-Stokes respiration, may occur with great frequency. Central sleep apnea is oftentimes never detected, as there is no sound or noise that is typically associated with the pauses in breathing. A sleep partner may become aware that a person with central sleep apnea is breathing in a shallow manner and notice that the chest does not move for some seconds and then gradually start regular breathing again. Certain medications are more likely to produce sleep apnea, such as opiate pain relievers. A brain injury such as a concussion may also result.
Obstructive sleep apnea / hypopnea is always accompanied by severe snoring. Even for those in relatively good health, snoring is usually very loud. However, loudness lessens after age 70. There are snorts, gasps, and choking sounds. The chest and stomach are moving but the closure of the tongue and throat restrict airflow.
What are the health risks associated with Sleep Apnea Disorder?
What makes sleep apnea disorder so dangerous is the drop in oxygen during the nighttime. In obstructive sleep apnea disorder the person stops breathing for 10-60 seconds each time. Some sleep apnea, up to 5 times per hour, is not dangerous. However, more than 5 times per hour is abnormal. And more than 10 times per hour will begin to adversely affect your health. A drop in oxygen levels even if only 5-10 times per hour can be considered severe.
Our physicians consider 5-15 episodes of obstructive sleep apnea disorder per sleep hour to be of mild health risk. 16-30 episodes per sleep hour are considered a moderate health risk. 30 or more episodes per sleep hour represent high health risk.
As the number of sleep apnea episodes increases, people are more likely to have a variety of health problems. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks
- Frequent urination
Atrial fibrillation, an irregular beating of the heart, is more common in those with more frequent obstructive sleep apnea disorder. When this goes untreated, people require more medicines to control blood pressure. People with sleep apnea disorder are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed by their doctor as suffering from depression.
Often increased need to urinate during the night is blamed upon prostate problems or other illnesses/medication, but upon successful treatment of obstructive sleep apnea / hypopnea, urination at night returns to normal.
What sleep apnea treatments exist?
Our doctors will recommend a sleep apnea treatment based upon the findings of your sleep test. This could include:
- Advice on weight loss
- Oral appliance therapy
- Nasal CPAP
- Surgical modification of upper airway
Do you conduct sleep studies for sleep apnea?
Yes. We can plan one to fit your schedule. An overnight sleep study will last a minimum of 6 hours, ending no later than 7:00 AM. If a nap study is requested, it follows the overnight study and ends approximately 10 hours after you awaken (usually between 4:30 PM and 6:30 PM).
How effective are sleep apnea treatments?
Very. Results from patients have shown we can achieve a marked difference in sleep patterns. Studies demonstrate that our sleep apnea treatments achieve a significant reduction in apnea and symptoms in 80% of patients.
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