Do you have daytime sleepiness or fatigue? Do you snore loudly or wake during the night due to shortness of breath? You may have encountered a serious sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. It is a significant health issue in the United States that is estimated to affect 22 million Americans with 80 percent of cases undiagnosed.
The “apnea” in sleep apnea means no breath or stopped breathing that lasts for a few seconds. In this condition, a person’s breathing repeatedly interrupts during sleep. Breathing pause can result either from a blockage in the airway or a signaling problem in the brain. When you unknowingly stop breathing during sleep, your brain triggers you to wake up to take a breath. You may take a deep breath, snort or wake up completely with a choking or gasping sound.
Untreated or undiagnosed sleep apnea can cause serious health problems like depression, heart disease, and memory troubles. If you are living with this sleep disorder, you can improve your quality of life by taking the right treatment from a sleep medicine physician.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Broadly, there are three main types of sleep apnea: Obstructive, central, and complex/mixed sleep apnea.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – It occurs due to a blockage in the upper airway, resulting in reducing or stopping airflow.
- Central Sleep Apnea – It occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing. In this case, the airway is open but the air stops flowing to the lungs.
- Mixed/Complex Sleep Apnea – It is commonly known as treatment-emergent sleep apnea. It is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms & Complications
The first and most common sign is snoring, which is usually observed by another person. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. It can be a sign when followed by silent breathing pauses, and sudden gasping or choking sounds you made while asleep. Some other symptoms you may notice include:
- Loud snoring
- Morning headache
- Insomnia or restless Sleep
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Forgetfulness and mood swings
- Decreased sexual desires
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Night Sweats
- Weight gain
- Frequent urination at night
- Difficulty concentrating
A number of complications have been associated with this sleep disorder, which includes:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Eye disorders
- Cognitive and behavioral disorders
- Blood vessels and heart diseases
- Pregnancy complications
Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea can cause complications that may affect your body and health. If you observe any of the symptoms, talk to your sleep medicine physician.
What Causes This Sleep Disorder?
Sleep apnea can affect any age or gender, and caused by a person’s medical conditions or physical structure. Some factors that may lead to the blocking of the airway are as follows:
- Physical Obstructions – When excessive fat stores around the airway, it can block the passage of air. When air flows through the airway, it causes loud and frequent snoring.
- Muscular Changes – When the body is at rest, the muscles that keep the airway open relax, causing it to narrow. This prevents air passage in and out of the lungs.
- Brain Function – Brain fails to control breathing during sleep, causing a pause in breathing until the brain senses apnea and signal the muscles to control airflow.
Are you at risk of sleep apnea? There are various factors that increase the risk of this sleep disorder including:
- Family history and genetics
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Obesity or excess weight
- Large neck circumference
- Being older
- Nasal congestion
- Being male
- Chronic sinusitis
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you feel chronically tired during the day or any other symptoms, you must consult your sleep medicine doctor who will determine medical conditions that may be causing your signs as well as suggest necessary steps to address the problem.
A sleep specialist may also perform tests to detect sleep apnea including nocturnal polysomnography carried out at an overnight sleep laboratory, and home sleep tests. An in-lab sleep study records muscle activity such as brain waves, face twitches, oxygen levels, breathing patterns, heart rate, and snoring.
A well-qualified sleep physician can help you find the right treatment plan for you based on the cause and the level of apnea. The ultimate objective of treatment is to normalize breathing while sleeping. Some of the sleep apnea treatments include:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy
- Lifestyle Changes (Avoid smoking, alcohol, and sleeping pills, weight loss, changing sleep position)
- Surgical Procedure (Nasal, tissue removal, tissue shrinkage, jaw repositioning, implants, nerve stimulation)
- Oral Appliances (Mandibular repositioning device, tongue retaining device)
Untreated sleep apnea can have severe consequences. If you think that you have this sleep disorder, consult the best sleep medicine physician in Brooklyn, New York at Artisans of Medicine today! Our experts will diagnose and treat your medical condition to help you get a good night’s sleep.