What is sleep apnea, you may ask, and how do I treat it if I have it? Well, not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea, but most people with sleep apnea do snore. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder in which a person goes through episodes of shallow breathing, or completely stopping breathing, for periods of time while asleep. There are two types: obtrusive and central, and which one you have determines how it should be treated.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
CSA occurs when the brain fails to initiate breathing. It can be caused by disruptions of the neurologic control system for breathing, untreated congestive heart failure, or rarely even Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment. It may be treated with ventilators or treating the heart failure, if that is the cause.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA is more common and occurs when airflow is blocked from the upper airway (meaning your nose, mouth, or throat). This blockage deprives you of oxygen ranging from any length of time between seconds and minutes. If this is left untreated it can cause irreversible changes in the body, leading to the development of high blood pressure, Diabetes, heart disease, heart attacks, hypertension in the lungs, weight gain, and even death.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
A sleep study can diagnose you by monitoring body signals, such as brainwave activity, muscle activity, respiratory effort, oxygen saturation, heart rhythm, and airflow, while you sleep. During this study, a CPAP machine and mask can be worn to determine the appropriate pressure settings for a certain individual. It works by maintaining an open airway by keeping it “inflated” like a balloon while sleeping. This method proves successful about 80% of the time.
Another sleep apnea equipment option for mild to moderate OSA is an oral appliance, which is worn in the mouth and slowly pulls the jaw forward to open up the airway. Using this may not be an option for people who suffer from tooth grinding, Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) disorders, or pain. Even more, it may cause tooth shifting and alteration of the bite after several years.
The final option for treating OSA would be surgery. It can require many procedures due to its complexity, but it may be necessary for patients unable to tolerate other forms of therapy. The surgery is directed at the site of obstruction, which may be in the nose, palate and tonsil level, or lower throat and base of the tongue. Often, the obstruction is caused by a combination of blockages at various different levels of the airway. Thus, the surgeries may include palate reconstruction, base of tongue resection, hyoid suspension, septoplasty, or genioglossus advancement.
Regardless of the type of sleep apnea, it’s important to test out various sleep apnea equipment to see what works for you. Everyone deserves a well-rested feeling after a sleep-filled night!
Think you may have sleep apnea? Make an appointment with Dr. Matorin now.