The Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments KNOWING SLEEP APNEA
Snoring is a common occurrence that can lead to annoyance or frustration, both for the person snoring and their bed partner. If you snore at night, it can cause you to wake up while you’re trying to sleep or prevent your partner from getting any shut- eye. However, if the snoring is accompanied by repeatedly waking throughout the night, shortness of breath, restless sleep, or persistent exhaustion, then it is far more serious and could be a symptom of sleep apnea. A common misconception about sleep apnea is who is at risk. Originally, it was thought to affect older and heavier men. Research has progressed, and we now know anyone can have an airway problem during sleep. Children, women, and younger, thinner men can also have sleep apnea, and their diagnoses are equally important. When you have sleep apnea, an obstruction in the airway prevents you from breathing while you’re asleep. You may not realize you’re waking up numerous times a night because your mind wakes your body up unconsciously. There are three forms of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to when your airway is blocked, usually by the collapse of your throat and your tongue falling back. This is the most common form of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is when your brain isn’t telling your body to breathe, causing you to wake up due to a lack of oxygen. The mixed type is a combination of both obstructive and central. Sleep apnea, in any form, can lead to severe health problems. The lack of oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body, coupled with inadequate sleep, can cause your mental and physical health to decline. Individuals who suffer from this sleep disorder experience many symptoms. At an early age, these symptoms include depression, mood disorders, short tempers, crankiness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, headaches, restless sleep, bed-wetting, and ADHD. For adults, sleep apnea contributes to high blood pressure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, and heart disease. Diagnosing sleep apnea starts with recognizing the problem. This may come from a bed partner who has witnessed your sleep behavior. They can explain the way you sleep, how loud your snoring is, and if you have any trouble breathing at
night. A medical diagnosis follows, and it involves a sleep study. This study can be done either in your home with portable equipment or in a sleep lab with a sleep technician who monitors your sleep during the night. Both methods allow doctors to study sleep patterns, including eye movement, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep state, muscle activity, and airflow to determine if a person has sleep apnea and how severe the condition is. Treatments for sleep apnea can vary. Many individuals use a continuous positive airway pressure device (also known as CPAP) to gently blow air into your airways, preventing the tissue around it from collapsing and helping you breathe. However, there are other treatments available for people who find the CPAP mask uncomfortable, including a dental appliance that supports the jaw and keeps the tongue from falling back into the airway while sleeping. If you believe you’re suffering from sleep apnea, our office is here to help you. We can work with your doctor to find the best solution for you and get you on your way toward a better night’s rest.
–Dr. Janelle Ferber-Stumpf
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