What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. OSA happens when the muscles of the throat intermittently relax during sleep. These relaxed muscles allow the inner structures of the throat - the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, and tongue - to fall into the throat cavity, blocking the airway during sleep. OSA causes sufferers to gasp for air and awaken several times throughout the night.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea’s most telltale symptom is snoring, though not all people who snore have obstructive sleep apnea. The snoring of a person with sleep apnea will often be interrupted with loud gasping breaths after a few seconds of silence. This happens then the throat intermittently relaxes, blocks the airway, and the patient wakes up momentarily, gasping for air. In patients with obstructive sleep apnea, this pattern of breathing/not breathing then waking up can occur more than 30 times every hour. Waking up consistently eliminates the patient’s ability to get a night of deep, restful, restorative sleep.
Many patients with obstructive sleep apnea have no idea that they are having these sleep troubles, as they don’t wake up fully enough at night to remember it in the morning. But they will see the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea during the day, such as:
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Headaches in the morning
- Trouble focusing and concentrating
- Moodiness, depression, or irritability
- Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
- Night sweats
- High blood pressure
- Low libido
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Anyone can develop sleep apnea. But having certain risk factors makes it more likely that you may develop obstructive sleep apnea. Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Smoking - Compounds in cigarette smoke are irritating to the delicate tissues of the throat, mouth, and sinus cavity. This inflammation of the tissues narrows the airway and contributes to sleep apnea.
- Being overweight - The majority of people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Excess weight contributes to obstructive sleep apnea because the fat deposits about the upper airway obstruct breathing if they become too large for space.
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids - Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in the throat can narrow the airway and obstruct breathing.
- Nasal congestion - Chronic nasal congestion blocks the flow of air from the nose, and drainage from the nasal cavity can irritate the tissues in the throat and cause inflammation that leads to sleep apnea.
- Diabetes - People with diabetes are more likely to develop sleep apnea.
- Being male - Men are twice as likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea as women.
- Going through menopause - Post-menopausal women are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea than pre-menopausal women.
- Genetics - If someone in your family suffers from sleep apnea, you’re more likely to develop sleep apnea.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
There are two types of diagnostic tools your doctor will diagnose sleep apnea - a sleep center study or an at-home sleep test, like the ARES Solution.
Sleep Center Study
- You’ll pack a bag and travel to the sleep center of your doctor’s choice for a night or two. You’ll be assigned a private room with a bed. After you get into bed, and the nurse will glue or tape sensors to the skin of your face and body. These sensors are attached to machines next to your bed, so you’ll have to remove all of them if you need to get up and go to the bathroom during the night. You’ll be monitored all night by the staff and the sensors as you sleep. Later, your doctor will review the data to give you a diagnosis.
ARES Solution At-Home Sleep Study
- With the ARES Solution at-home sleep study, you’ll avoid the discomfort and inconvenience of having to do a sleep study at an unfamiliar sleep study center away from home. You won’t have to arrange for childcare, pet sitting, or take a day off from work to do an at-home sleep study like you would with an in-facility sleep study.
Your ARES Solution Sleep Study device
will be mailed directly to your home. The device is a small, comfortably fitting device that you’ll wear while you sleep for up to three nights. The device is worn around the top of the head like a tennis sweatband, so it doesn’t feel claustrophobic like some of the larger, more cumbersome at-home sleep study devices on the market.
While you sleep, the ARES device collects information on oxygen saturation, pulse rate, sleep time, physical movement, airflow, snoring, and sleep position. This data is collected within the device itself, so there are no binding wires that keep you strapped to your bed if you need to get up and go to the bathroom during the night. Once you’ve slept in the device for one to three nights, you’ll mail the device back to us in the pre-paid shipping envelope, and a board-certified sleep physician will contact you in 1 to 2 days with your diagnosis.
Treatments for Sleep Apnea Sleep apnea is treatable! There’s no reason to struggle through drowsy days and irritable moods when there is help for sleep apnea sufferers. For milder cases of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes may be all that is needed to finally get a good night’s sleep. Lifestyle changes that can have an impact on sleep-apnea include:
- Getting to a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Using nasal decongestants
- Taking antihistamines if allergies affect your breathing
- Cutting back on drinking alcohol
- Restricting the use of sedatives and sleeping pills