Numerous individuals, both men and women, are suffering from a sleep problem called sleep apnea, which literally means “no breath.” Contrary to the common notion, sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects at least 3 out of 10 men, and 2 in 10 women. The problem is that many of these affected individuals are left undiagnosed. If you think you or your loved one might have sleep apnea, it is crucial to learn how to recognize the common signs and symptoms and know the various kinds of treatments that are available today.
What Is It?
If you have sleep apnea, the flow of air to your lungs ceases for at least 10 seconds – it means you stop breathing, thus, your brain and the rest of your body are deprived of their much needed oxygen. A certain part of your brain triggers you to wake up and take a breath once it detects that your respiration has stopped. You will then go back to sleep and the cycle repeats. Such episodes can take place at least 30 times while you are asleep and in most cases, you won’t remember that you woke up.
Imagine the stress that your body goes through as your body constantly shifts back and forth between sleep and wakefulness. You end up feeling tired even after having several hours of rest. Plus, you may not even realize that you’ve been waking up at night due to sleep apnea.
Signs and Symptoms
Keep in mind that snoring, which is the most common sign of sleep apnea, is usually observed by your partner. He or she may also notice you making gasping or choking sounds while sleeping. The other symptoms include poor concentration, morning headaches, forgetfulness, lack of energy, exhaustion, and depression. Please remember that these symptoms are not always linked to sleep apnea. So be sure to talk to a sleep specialist for any concerns that you may have and to make sure that a correct diagnosis is made.
Types Of Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
– OSA or obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It accounts for more than 80% of sleep apnea diagnoses. This type of sleep apnea is characterized by the cessation of airflow to the lungs due to an obstruction or blockage in the upper airway like the throat or nose. The obstructions may be due to the following:
- Structural problems involving the jaw, neck, and nose
- Swollen tonsils
- Large neck size, which results in narrowing of the airway
- Airway muscles relax too much during sleep and prevent enough air from passing through. The narrow pathway triggers vibrations in the throat, which leads to snoring.
- Central Sleep Apnea
– It is the second type of sleep and is much less common than OSA. In central sleep apnea, the communication between the body and the brain is impaired, which results in the cessation of automatic respiration. The airway is open but the body does not exert any effort to breathe. Patients with central sleep apnea do not snore and in most cases, their condition is left unnoticed.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea
– As its name suggests, mixed sleep apnea is a combination of OSA and central sleep apnea. This type of sleep problem involves a blockage in the airway and the brain’s failure to send signals required for automatic breathing. If you need to know more about this condition, do not hesitate to talk to a sleep specialist.
Why Seek Treatment?
As mentioned earlier, many people who suffer from sleep apnea are left untreated. There are also those who already have a hint that they have this kind of problem but still choose not to consult a doctor because they feel embarrassed. There are many reasons why you should have yourself checked. These include
- Lowers associated risks
- Improves overall health
- Lessens symptoms of sleep apnea
- Improves mood
- Boosts memory and concentration
- Improves quality of life
- Reduced dizziness, chest discomfort, and shortness of breath
- Enhances energy level
Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
If you noticed that you have been having trouble sleeping if your partner constantly complains about your loud snoring, and if you think you have sleep apnea, here are some basic tips to follow:
- Identify and recognize the symptoms. Are they common symptoms of sleep apnea or are they associated with other kinds of medical problems?
- Take a sleep apnea quiz.
- Consult a sleep specialist for proper sleep apnea test, diagnosis, and treatment.
Sleep Lab Test
Once you seek the help of a professional, you may be asked to undergo a sleep lab test. It will be conducted in a medical center, hospital, or sleep lab. A clinical staff will perform the test. Sensors will be placed on your body so they can monitor your sleep. They will also ask for your authorization to allow them to film you while you sleep so they can get for details about your various sleeping behaviors. They will also use it to evaluate any unusual movements and help determine if you have night-time seizures.
Home Sleep Test
HST or home sleep test is comparable to the tests conducted in a sleep lab or hospital setting. Before you conduct a home sleep study, a sleep specialist will teach you how to place the sensors, set up the monitors, and use the recording device properly. On the night of the test, you will go about your regular routine at night, prepare for sleep, follow the instructions of your sleep specialist, and begin recording. When you wake up in the morning, remove the sensors, gather all the tools used, and return them to the sleep lab.
After the sleep study, you and your sleep specialist will talk about the results. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will be informed about the severity of your condition, its effects on your health, and the various available treatments like Resmed CPAP Machines.
What Are The Treatment Options?
- Positive Airway Pressure Therapy
- CPAP or the continuous positive airway pressure is the first kind of treatment options available these days. It is considered as the “gold standard” treatment for sleep apnea. This treatment involves the constant delivery of airflow to patients while they sleep through a specialized machine that comes with a CPAP mask.
- APAP or the automatic positive airway pressure also involves the use of a special equipment that changes the air pressure delivered to the patient while he or she is asleep. This process makes patients feel more comfortable while using the sleep apnea machine.
- Bilevel therapy involves the use of higher pressure.
- Oral Appliances
Another non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea is the mandibular repositioning device or MRD. It is a customized mouthpiece that works by holding the patient’s jaw forward while sleep so as to expand the space at the back of the tongue. The mouthpiece ensures that the patient’s airway is kept open so as to prevent breathing cessation and snoring. MRDs are highly recommended to patients with mild or moderate OSA. However, this oral device may also be proposed to patients who cannot tolerate the use of a CPAP machine.
Various kinds of surgeries may also be recommended as a form of treatment for sleep apnea. These procedures share one thing in terms of their objective and that is to enhance the area in the patient’s upper respiratory tract where obstructions commonly take place. There are instances when at least two types of surgeries are performed to achieve success. But before anything else, the doctor will educate the patient about the procedure, its benefits, drawbacks, risks, and other pertinent details that would help the patient decide if they wish to proceed with the treatment.
- Weight Loss
Weight loss has also proven to be helpful in alleviating symptoms of those who are suffering from milder cases of sleep apnea. Before you choose any treatment option for your sleep apnea, you need to get in touch with your doctor and sleep specialist. They will help determine the best treatment for you based on your condition, medical history, and other important factors.
Undergoing sleep apnea treatment will require you to make some adjustments. In case you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea but have not yet started therapy, you most likely have a lot of questions as to why a certain treatment will affect your regular routines and your lifestyle in general. Living with sleep apnea has been made a lot better thanks to the advancements in science and technology.
Various sleep apnea machines from leading brands like Resmed, Fisher and Paykel, and Philips Respironics are available in the market today. All of these devices aim to help you have a restful sleep. Just be sure to follow the recommendations and instructions of your sleep doctor. Depending on the type of treatment that you have, you should notice improvements in your sleep quality and lesser snoring. It is also highly recommended for you to join sleep apnea support groups so you can talk to people who have similar problems and learn how they coped with their sleep apnea.