What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by abnormal breathing during sleep. With sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat relax, causing the throat to close and block the flow of oxygen. This repeatedly occurs throughout the night, which may lead to significant health problems.
There are a number of types of sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea is the most serious and occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common type, occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax or collapse, causing difficulty breathing. Mixed sleep apnea is a mix of central and obstructive sleep apnea.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Daytime fatigue
- Dry mouth
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea, and it’s usually the first sign of sleep apnea that a person or their partner notices. In a clinic, sleep apnea is diagnosed by the following methods:
A sleep study called polysomnography (PSG) may be ordered to diagnose sleep apnea. This overnight study records several body functions while you sleep, such as your brain waves, heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen level, body movements, and snoring.
Home sleep study
If your healthcare provider suspects that you may have sleep apnea, he or she may recommend you undergo a home sleep study. During the study, you’ll sleep within your own home while wearing a device to monitor your sleep and breathing. The data from the study will be reviewed by your healthcare provider, who may then recommend a treatment option.
When you visit a doctor, he or she will perform a thorough physical examination of your mouth and throat. This is to evaluate signs of sleep apnea and snoring, such as pauses in your breathing or snoring loud enough that others can hear it.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person experience pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while sleeping. These pauses can last anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 seconds. These pauses can occur 30 to 40 times in an hour. In some cases, a person may have 1,000 pauses in a single night.
The treatments include the following:
CPAP is the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It is a pressurized air device that patients wear at night. The device is connected to a mask that covers the nose or nose and mouth. The mask delivers a steady flow of pressurized air into the back of the throat to keep the airway open. This helps to prevent sleep apnea episodes.
Oral appliances are a common treatment option for snoring and mild cases of sleep apnea. Oral appliances work by holding the lower jaw forward, preventing the tongue and soft tissue from blocking the airways. Oral appliances are effective, non-invasive, and easy to wear.
The oral appliance is custom-fit to the patient’s mouth. Oral appliances are very effective when the patient wears the device every night, and some patients may require a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine in addition to an oral appliance.
Oral appliances are an effective treatment option for mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea. Patients can discuss treatment options with their doctor, including oral appliances.
For those suffering from sleep apnea, surgery is a last resort. When all other treatment options have been exhausted, surgery may be recommended. During surgery, tissue in the throat or mouth is changed to increase the size of the airway. This often improves airflow but may not completely eliminate sleep apnea.
- Sleep apnea is also treated with lifestyle changes. These may include:
- Avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives
- Avoiding smoking
- Losing weight
- Sleeping on your side or stomach
- Avoiding or reducing stress
- Avoiding large meals in the evening
To understand more about our treatment options for sleep apnea, request an appointment with Dr. An in San Francisco, CA, today!