There are several types of sleep apnea.
Everybody snores occasionally and it can be quite amusing to hear. However, persistent snoring is a very different matter. Not only is it very irritating for any sleeping partners, but it could indicate the presence of a serious sleep disorder.
If you or your partner regularly snores, it’s possible you may have a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. If you frequently wake up feeling tired and ill rested, even after a full night’s sleep, it can also be caused by sleep apnea.
There are several types of sleep apnea.
The most common type is called obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. Central sleep apnea is less common and occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles controlling breathing. Plus, there’s also another type of sleep apnea that combines both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. This is called complex sleep apnea syndrome.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The symptoms of both types of sleep apnea can overlap, this makes it potentially difficult to properly diagnose. The most common signs include loud snoring, although, this tends to be more prevalent in OSA.
Sleep apnea also causes breathing to cease completely during sleep, often for several seconds at a time. The person with the condition won’t be aware that this is happening, but their sleeping partner will notice, especially as breathing often restarts with a loud snort or gasp.
When someone awakens feeling short of breath, it’s more likely to indicate central sleep apnea. Waking up with a headache or a dry mouth or even a sore throat is common with both kinds of sleep apnea.
People with this sleep disorder often find that they suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness. They find that it’s difficult to pay attention and a lack of sleep is enough to make anybody feel irritable.
When to Seek Help
It is important to seek proper medical help when snoring becomes loud enough to disturb others or even when you can hear yourself snoring. You should also get treatment if you wake up gasping for air or feeling as if you are choking. If you have been told you stop breathing intermittently during sleep, you should get help. Excessive daytime sleepiness can make it dangerous to operate machinery or to drive.
Many people don’t realize they can see their dentist to get a diagnosis for obstructive sleep apnea. Your dentist will be able to examine your mouth and the structures in your throat to decide on the best possible treatment.
If they can see any abnormalities in your throat for example very large tonsils, they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat surgeon. Otherwise, they may decide to send you for a sleep study.
This is where your sleep will be monitored overnight to determine the severity of any OSA. Often mild-to-moderate OSA.
Potential Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This occurs when the muscles supporting your throat relax during sleep. It allows your airway to collapse inwards and your tongue may fall backward, preventing breathing. At the same time, your oxygen levels may reduce. When you stop breathing your brain senses this and will briefly awaken you from sleep, allowing breathing to restart.
With OSA this awakening is usually extremely momentary so you are unlikely to remember it.
These interruptions can occur many times each night. It is dangerous because it prevents the body from reaching a deep, restive stage of sleep. This state of sleep is essential for the body to repair itself so that you wake up feeling rejuvenated and properly rested. Unfortunately, people with OSA often think they get a good night sleep which can delay a diagnosis.
Potential Causes of Central Sleep Apnea
When your brain fails to send the proper singles to the muscles responsible for breathing, your body may make no effort to breathe for a short period of time. This results in sufferers waking up feeling short of breath, or they may have difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep.
Risk Factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
If you are overweight you are more likely to have sleep apnea, particularly if you have a thicker neck as you may have a narrower airway. Some people naturally have a narrow throat or will have tonsils or adenoids that are larger than normal.
You are more at risk of sleep apnea if you have family members with this condition and men are twice as likely as women to have sleep apnea. However, a woman’s risk of developing sleep apnea seems to increase after menopause.
If you smoke, drink alcohol or use sedatives or tranquilizers, your risk of sleep apnea is higher as well.
There are various ways to treat OSA. Mild to moderate sleep apnea can often be treated with a custom-made night splint that can be provided by your dentist. This is a small comfortable device that you simply wear during sleep and it’s specially designed to hold the lower jaw in a position where it is just slightly forwards. Being in this position will help hold the airway open and helps to prevent the tongue from falling backward where it could block the airway.
More severe cases of sleep apnea may require a different form of treatment through using a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). This machine consists of a mask that you wear over your nose during sleep. It provides a continuous flow of air into your airway passages, preventing you from snoring and preventing sleep apnea.
Why It’s Vital Not to Ignore OSA
Sleep apnea deserves to be taken seriously because of the complications it can cause. People with sleep apnea are more at risk of developing heart problems or high blood pressure. This is because of the changes to the blood oxygen levels that occur with this problem.
OSA can increase the risk of having a heart attack and the risk of stroke. If you have sleep apnea you're more likely to develop insulin resistance and as a result to have type II diabetes.
It can make surgery riskier because people with sleep apnea are more likely to have complications due to breathing problems. This especially happens when they are sedated and on their back. Then there are the problems of feeling fatigued and drowsy the whole time. You are more at risk of having an accident either while driving or at work, and of course, OSA affects sleeping partners. It is not unusual for sleeping partners to be sleep deprived as well.
With treatment readily available, that good night’s sleep you desire could be easily achieved.