What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea ?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. It causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. This occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep. A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.
What are some symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea ?
Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include :
– Excessive daytime sleepiness
– Loud snoring
– Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
– Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
– Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
– Morning headache
– Difficulty concentrating during the day
– Experiencing mood changes, such as depression or irritability
– High blood pressure
– Nighttime sweating
– Decreased libido
When should I see a doctor ?
Please schedule an appointment to see us if you experience, or if your partner observes, the following :
– Snoring loud enough to disturb your sleep or that of others especially snoring that’s punctuated by periods of silence. With obstructive sleep apnea, snoring usually is loudest when you sleep on your back, and it quiets when you turn on your side.
– Waking up gasping or choking
– Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
– Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you’re working, watching television or even driving a vehicle
What are to common risk factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea ?
Certain factors put you at increased risk, including :
– Excess weight : Around half the people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around the upper airway may obstruct breathing.
– Narrowed airway : You may inherit naturally narrow airways. Or, your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.
– High blood pressure (hypertension) : Obstructive sleep apnea is relatively common in people with hypertension.
– Chronic nasal congestion : Obstructive sleep apnea occurs twice as often in those who have consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause. This may be due to narrowed airways.
– People who smoke are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
– Obstructive sleep apnea may be more common in people with diabetes.
– In general, men are twice as likely as women to have obstructive sleep apnea.
– A family history of sleep apnea : If you have family members with obstructive sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.
What are the complications of Obstructive Sleep Apnea ?
Obstructive sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition. Complications may include:
– Daytime fatigue and sleepiness : People with obstructive sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. They may have difficulty concentrating and find themselves falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving.
– Cardiovascular problems : Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during obstructive sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which can increase the risk of heart disease. Obstructive sleep apnea also increases the risk of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
Complications with medications and surgery : Obstructive sleep apnea also is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. These medications, such as sedatives, narcotic analgesics and general anesthetics, relax your upper airway and may worsen your obstructive sleep apnea.
– Sleep-deprived partners : Loud snoring can keep those around you from getting good rest and eventually disrupt your relationships. Some partners may even choose to sleep in another room. Many bed partners of people who snore are sleep deprived as well.
– Memory Problems : People with obstructive sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings or feelings of depression, and a need to urinate frequently at night.
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea diagnosed ?
To diagnose your condition, we may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms, an examination, and tests. We may refer you to a sleep specialist in a sleep center for further evaluation.
You’ll have a physical examination, and we will examine the back of your throat, mouth and nose for extra tissue or abnormalities. We may measure your neck and waist circumference and check your blood pressure.
A sleep specialist may conduct additional evaluations to diagnose your condition, determine the severity of your condition and plan your treatment. The evaluation may involve overnight monitoring of your breathing and other body functions as you sleep. Tests to detect obstructive sleep apnea include:
– During this sleep study, you’re hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep. You may have a full-night study, in which you’re monitored all night, or a split-night sleep study.
– Home sleep apnea testing : Under certain circumstances, we may provide you with an at-home version of polysomnography to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. This test usually involves measurement of airflow, breathing patterns and blood oxygen levels, and possibly limb movements and snoring intensity.
– We also may refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor to rule out any anatomic blockage in your nose or throat.
How is Obstructive Sleep Apnea treated ?
Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea are available :
Lifestyle changes :
For milder cases of obstructive sleep apnea, we may recommend lifestyle changes:
– Lose weight if you’re overweight.
– Exercise regularly.
– Drink alcohol moderately, if at all, and don’t drink several hours before bedtime.
– Quit smoking.
– Use a nasal decongestant or allergy medications.
– Don’t sleep on your back.
If these measures don’t improve your sleep or if your apnea is moderate to severe, then we may recommend other treatments. Certain devices can help open up a blocked airway. One treatment involves using a device that keep your airway open while you sleep. Another option is a mouthpiece to thrust your jaw forward during sleep.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
– If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you may benefit from positive airway pressure. In this treatment, a machine delivers air pressure through a piece that fits into your nose or is placed over your nose and mouth while you sleep. This air pressure prevents obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.
– Though positive airway pressure is often an effective treatment, oral appliances are an alternative for some people with mild or moderate obstructive sleep apnea. These devices may reduce your sleepiness and improve your quality of life.
Surgery or other procedures
Surgery is usually considered only if other therapies haven’t been effective or haven’t been appropriate options for you.