Facts About Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is the condition where one has periods of not breathing (apnea) while sleeping.   These apneas often go unnoticed by the patient but are often noticed by their bed partner.

When we sleep, the tissues in our throat relax.  Snoring results from these tissues vibrating.  If the throat tissues are enlarged by enlarged tonsils, adenoids or obesity the throat passage can collapse and block air from getting to your lungs. This causes you to gasp or choke to restart your breathing.  This gasp interrupts your sleep cycle which makes you tired the next day.  The loss of oxygen to vital organs causes damage to them.

Left untreated Sleep Apnea can cause         

  • Hypertension
  • Heart Disease Stroke
  • Depression
  • Diabetes.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

  • Loud Snoring
  • Pauses in Breathing during sleep
  • Choking or gasping sounds
  • Sudden startling in sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Falling asleep at work or watching TV

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea:

  • Overweight
  • Large neck size, over 17″ for a man, 16″ for a woman
  • Age over 50

Diagnosis

Sleep Apnea is diagnosed by a sleep study the initial one may be done at home. Additional sleep testing may need to be performed at a sleep lab.

Treatment

Sleep Apnea is serious and must be treated.  Options:

  • CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) uses a steady stream of pressurized air in your throat.
  • Dental Appliance/Retainer that adjusts your jaw to treat Sleep Apnea
  • Surgery to remove airway obstructing tissue like enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Weight loss – Often a 10-20 lbs weight loss has a dramatic effect
  • Sleep Position – Sleeping on your back worsens your Apnea
  • Avoid alcohol and sleep medications