What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder caused by shallow breathing or even complete pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Those with sleep apnea often have issues with snoring as well.
There are three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and a combination of the two (complex). Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of airflow, while central sleep apnea stems from a lack of effort to breathe.
Many people don’t even know they have sleep apnea. In fact, it is often a family member who notices the issue first. Symptoms include loud snoring, dry mouth, abrupt awakenings caused by shortness of breath, morning headaches, and difficulty staying asleep.Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed after a sleep study is conducted and at least five occurrences happen within an hour during the night.
What are the effects of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea doesn’t just affect your breathing at night. Its effects can be felt throughout your entire day. Here are some risks associated with sleep apnea:
- Daytime fatigue: You may have issues with staying awake, concentrating, and irritability after a night of poor sleep due to sleep apnea.
- High blood pressure: Drops in blood oxygen levels put a greater strain on your cardiovascular system and can lead to hypertension.
- Heart-related issues: Sleep apnea can increase repeats of heart attacks as well as atrial fibrillation.
- Type 2 diabetes: Those with sleep apnea are at a greater risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
- Liver problems: Sleep apnea can cause scarring on the liver, known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Sleep-deprived partners: Disruptive snoring can cause your loved one to have poor sleep, increasing irritability and potentially straining the relationship.
How is Sleep Apnea treated?
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). A CPAP machine brings continuous airflow and pressure to your nasal passages through a mask placed over your nose during sleep. This steady air pressure is greater than what normally surrounds you, keeping the airways open and preventing apnea and snoring. If CPAP is uncomfortable for you, you may try BiPAP, which provides more pressure when you inhale and less when you exhale.
Likewise, EPAP (Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure) is a small, single-use device placed over each nostril. When you inhale, air is allowed to freely come in, but as you exhale, the air must go through small valves, building up pressure and keeping the airways open. Those who don’t like CPAP may have better luck with EPAP.
Another option is using an oral appliance designed to keep your throat open as you sleep. For example, one version of an oral appliance holds the jaw forward, keeping the airway open. You may need to try a few varieties before you find the right fit for you.
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If you have any of the symptoms associated with sleep apnea, we are here to help. Get in touch today to start getting better sleep ASAP!