Can’t stay asleep at night? Waking up in the middle of the night can leave you feeling tired the next day. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that, if left untreated, can lead to serious health issues like high blood pressure and heart problems. Sleep apnea can happen to anyone, but older, overweight men are most commonly diagnosed.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which you start and stop breathing over and over. Each time, you wake up for a few seconds to clear your airway, which can happen hundreds of times in a night. You might have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep. There are three main kinds of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea – The more common form of sleep apnea which occurs when throat muscles relax
- Central sleep apnea – This occurs when your brain doesn’t send the proper signals to your muscles that control breathing
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome – This is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, and it occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Most of the time, the person with obstructive sleep apnea isn’t the one who notices the first signs, instead, it’s their bed partner. Many of those who have it don’t have any trouble sleeping. Most people with obstructive sleep apnea have the following signs and symptoms:
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
- Restlessness during sleep or frequent nighttime awakenings
- Sudden awakenings with a sensation of gasping or choking
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
- Cognitive impairment, such as trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, or irritability
- Mood disturbances, including depression or anxiety
- Night sweats
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Sexual dysfunction
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the airway gets blocked. This usually happens when the soft tissue in the back of the throat falls while sleeping. People with obstructive sleep apnea tend to have the same body types and health problems, such as being overweight, having a big neck, or having a structural problem that makes the upper airway narrower, like a blocked nose, a soft palate that hangs low, big tonsils, or a small jaw with an overbite.
Central sleep apnea is usually seen in people who have problems with their central nervous system, like after a stroke, or with neuromuscular diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It also happens often in people who have heart failure or other types of heart, kidney, or lung disease.
How do You Diagnose Sleep Apnea?
If your doctor thinks you might have sleep apnea based on your symptoms, he or she may ask you to see a sleep specialist or give you an overnight sleep study to find out for sure if you do. Here at Livosa, we are committed to helping you find your way back to a good night’s sleep, and our trained professionals are ready to help you.
Testing includes a polysomnogram, which is an overnight sleep study. A PSG is done in a sleep lab by a trained technologist who is right there with the patient. During the test, the electrical activity of the brain, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rate, breathing patterns, airflow, and blood oxygen levels are all recorded at night while the person sleeps. After the study is done, the number of times sleep apnea makes it hard to breathe is counted and the severity of the condition is graded. Find out more details about an at home sleep apnea test.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
If you can’t stay asleep at night and you believe sleep apnea could be the cause, there are many treatments available for which include:
- Conservative treatments – In mild cases of obstructive sleep apnea, conservative therapies may be used which include:
- Weight loss for those who are overweight
- Avoiding the use of alcohol or sleeping pills, because both of these can make the airway more likely to collapse
- Using a wedge pillow or other similar devices may help individuals sleep on their side instead of their backs
- Those with sinus issues should use nasal sprays or breathing strips to reduce snoring and improve airflow for better nighttime breathing
- Mechanical therapy – Positive Airway Pressure, or PAP therapy is the preferred treatment for most people with obstructive sleep apnea. Patients who get PAP therapy wear a mask over their nose and mouth, and a gentle flow of air is forced through by an air blower. PAP therapy keeps the airway from closing while it’s being used, and these devices come in different styles and types to meet the different needs of each patient, and some of these include:
- CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is the most common machine used and is set to one pressure
- Bi-level PAP – Uses one pressure during inhale, and a lower pressure during exhale
- Auto CPAP or Auto Bi-level PAP – Uses a range of pressures and self-regulates depending on pressure requirements detected by the machine
- Adaptive Servo-Ventilation (ASV) – Non-invasive ventilation that is used for patients with central sleep apnea, which keeps the airway open and gives a mandatory breath when needed
- Mandibular advancement devices – Patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea can use these devices. Oral mandibular advancement devices or dental appliances can be made to keep the tongue from blocking the throat or to move the lower jaw forward, which helps keep your airway open while you sleep
- Hypoglossal nerve stimulator – A stimulator is put under the skin on the right side of the chest, and electrodes are tunneled under the skin to the hypoglossal nerve in the neck and the intercostal muscles in the chest. At bedtime, a remote control is used to turn on the machine and with each breath, the hypoglossal nerve is stimulated, the tongue moves forward out of the airway, and the airway opens
- Surgery – There are surgical procedures that may be done to help open the airway which helps with obstructive sleep apnea. These include but are not limited to:
- Somnoplasty – Radiofrequency energy is used to reduce soft tissue in the upper airway
- Tonsillectomy – Tonsils are removed
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty – Removes soft tissue in the back of the throat and palate
- Mandibular or maxillary advancement surgery – Surgical correction of facial abnormalities or throat obstructions
- Nasal Surgery – Correction of nasal obstructions
Achieve better sleep today and give us a call at Livosa, where sleep matters.