Sleep Apnea Can Rob You Of A Good Nights Sleep
People who are constantly sleepy throughout the day may be suffering from an ailment known as sleep apnea. It is a common sleep disorder that causes disruptions in breathing throughout the night, with each episode lasting up to 10 seconds.
The sufferer may partially wake up to regain their breathing rhythm and never remember the sleep disturbance, therefore not realizing they may have sleep apnea.
They may suffer, in addition to day time sleepiness, loud snoring, concentration issues, irritability, periods of forgetfulness and depression. Sleep Apnea sufferers may also experience mood changes and have difficulty concentrating and have headaches in the morning. These symptoms aren’t exclusive to sleep apnea, but persons having one or more should consult their physician.
There are basically two types of sleep apnea. One, central sleep apnea is when the brain’s normal signals to breathe aren’t functioning properly. The other is called obstructive sleep apnea and is the more common cause. This type is caused by an obstruction in the airway usually from the relaxation of the soft tissue in the palate or the enlargement of the uvula, which is that small piece of skin hanging in the back of the throat.
Various Triggers Cause Sleep Apnea
There are a variety of causes for sleep apnea, including obesity, too much alcohol before going to bed, habitual snoring, family history and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Obstructive sleep apnea is also more prevalent in males than in females and recent research indicates that one in three overweight males suffer some degree of sleep apnea and only one in five overweight females.
Witnessing an episode of sleep apnea can be a startling experience for the bedmate due to the appearance of suffocating by the sufferer. Usually it’s the bedmate who convinces them to seek medical attention due to either their periods of not breathing or excessive snoring. While they may wake them to have them change sleeping positions, which may stop the snoring, it will not cure the primary reason for the snoring.
About 24% of adult males and 9% of adult females may suffer from some degree of this disorder. Of these approximate 20 million sufferers only a fraction, an estimated six million, have been diagnosed with the ailment and are severe enough for medical treatment.
What happens in obstructive sleep apnea is that an obstruction is causing loss of breathe. There a variety of causes for this as well as treatment for each. Tissues in the soft palate of the roof of the mouth relax too much and cause it to sag into the airway, effectively blocking air from getting through.
Another cause of obstructive sleep apnea is the uvula, the tiny piece of tissue which hangs from the roof of the mouth into the back of the throat swells when relaxed and also blocks airflow. A nasal blockage could also cause obstructive sleep apnea.
Several treatments exist and left untreated obstructive sleep apnea can be life threatening. It has been associated with heart attacks, high blood pressure and strokes. The degree of treatment and the type will depend on the severity of the case.
For some obstructive sleep apnea sufferers, simply changing their lifestyle may alleviate some of the symptoms, such as sleeping on their side instead of their back. When the soft tissues relax and begin to sag, they will fall towards the side instead of the throat not blocking the airway.
Since alcohol is a sedative, it should not be consumed within four hours of bedtime so as not to over relax the tissues causing loud snoring and episodes on sleep apnea. Another cause of obstructive sleep apnea is obesity. Persons suffering from obstructive sleep apnea should work with their physician to lose weight.
Other treatments include dental appliances and surgery in sever cases of obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Is Now Available
Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other groups under the National Institute of Health NIH) have found sleep apnea sufferers are at risk for other health problems and have established specific sleep apnea treatment.
Sleep apnea treatment methods depend on the individual case and some with mild symptoms find treatment too intrusive or uncomfortable and therefore forego any form of treatment. However, untreated, sleep apnea can be life threatening causing people to fall asleep at inopportune times like while they are driving and can put them at risk for stroke.
Appliances Can Help Sleep Apnea Sufferers
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP pronounced see-pap) is the most recommended sleep apnea treatment as it maintains a constant air flow in the nasal passages and prevents sleep apnea. This machine, however, requires the use of a mask and some find it too uncomfortable.
Several dental appliances, called oral mandibular advancement devices are used in sleep apnea treatment, hold the tongue in place, or forces the lower jaw to jut forward, and keep the airway open during sleep and also prevent sleep apnea.
When all else fails in severe sleep apnea cases surgery is performed. Currently there are four procedures in use for sleep apnea treatment. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) opens the back of throat by removing tissue from the soft palate, opening the airways. A laser assisted version of this technique is also in use. Somnoplasty, the minimally invasive technique to reduce the soft tissue in the airway, involves heating needles with radio frequency and causing lesions which tighten the tissue.
Mandibular maxillar advancement surgery can fix certain facial and throat deformities which cause sleep apnea and nasal surgery which can repair a deviated septum which may play a role in sleep apnea.
While excessively loud snoring may be unbearable to loved ones sharing the bead with a sleep apnea sufferers, this potential sign of the disorder should not be ignored. Treatment is available for the various causes, as well as the various levels of the problem and a qualified sleep disorder professional should be consulted to determine how to treat each person on an individual basis.