Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is simply defined as a sleep disorder in which breathing starts and stops, repeatedly throughout the sleep process. There two main types of Sleep Apnea. These include Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of Sleep Apnea, affecting roughly 5% of the global adult population. Unfortunately, that number could be much higher as many cases go undiagnosed. Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the muscles in your mouth and throat, including the tongue, soft palate and sometimes even uvula, relax during sleep and block airway passage to the lungs. This event causes you to constantly wake up and fall back asleep many times throughout the night and will most likely cause poor sleep quality.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central Sleep Apnea revolves more around brain functionality. When the brain fails to send correct signals to the body to get you to breath during sleep, Central Sleep Apnea is the result. Central Sleep Apnea is far less common than Obstructive Sleep Apnea, effecting less than 10% of total Sleep Apnea patients.
Depending on the severity of your Sleep Apnea case, people will have an apnea (stop breathing) up to 400 times a night. These apneas typically occur when the body is trying to reach REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is the deepest stage of the sleep cycle. Once the apnea occurs, the cycle jumps back and has to make its way back to REM where the apnea most likely will repeat. This sleep apnea cycle stops the body from ever fully reaching REM sleep.
The lack of REM sleep side by side with the decreased amount of oxygen received during sleep result in a long list of symptoms related to Sleep Apnea. Some of key symptoms include:
- Daytime fatigue
- Sore/Dry mouth and throat
- High blood pressure
- Increased chance for heart attack/stroke
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loud snoring, gasping and choking
These symptoms often get worse with more severe cases and can possibly get worse with long periods of no treatment.
Many things can cause sleep apnea. A lot of times, the main cause varies depending on the persons age, weight, and lifestyle. For Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most common causes include:
- Genetics: If you have a family history of OSA, it is much more likely that you will have some level of it as well.
- Obesity: Obesity and weight gain in general happens to be the leading cause of OSA. As you gain weight, the passages in your airway become thinner and more narrow, resulting in less room for air to flow and a higher change for an apnea to occur.
- Nasal Obstruction: If you have any form of nasal obstruction from a deviated septum to enlarged turbinates due to allergies, not being able to breath through the nose means that your main, and sometimes only source of air is through the mouth. When the mouth is the only source of airflow, apneas are more likely to occur.
- Large tonsils or adenoids: This usually only applies to children as it is much more difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of sleep apnea in adults. For children, a simple surgery to remove the tonsils and/or adenoids usually eases the severity.
There are several treatment methods for Sleep Apnea. The treatment you end up choosing would most likely depend on your severity and your level of comfort for each treatment. The most common forms of treatment include:
- CPAP/BiPAP Machines: This is the gold standard when it comes down to treating any form of Sleep Apnea. These machines keep you from having an apnea by blowing constantly blowing air into your airway. Many come with certain comfort features to make your ability to use it easier such as heated tubing, humidifier and soft, comfortable cushions. Most modern machines are almost completely silent as well. CPAP/BiPAP Machines have a success rate of nearly 100%, which is why they are the gold standard of Sleep Apnea treatment.
- Oral Appliances: Most oral appliances are made to push your jaw forward to release some space in your throat. This form of treatment is usually used in cases of mild to moderate sleep apnea and has a success rate of about 54%. The success rate usually goes up as the cases are more mild as oral appliances often times have difficulty treating the more severe cases.
- Lose Weight: As mentioned before, obesity and weight gain is the leading cause for Sleep Apnea. If you happen to have a mild case, a doctor might start you off by suggesting for you to lose weight. In mild cases, it is possible for significant weight loss to almost completely cure sleep apnea. In more severe cases, studies have shown that significant weight loss can drop the severity down by nearly 60%! This is why, unless you have an extreme case, most doctors will begin treatment by suggesting a weight loss plan before jumping to other treatments.
- Nerve Stimulation: There are a few methods for this but most include some kind of implant that stimulates the nerves that control the tongue and muscles in the throat. while you sleep, the stimulation keeps the airways open, avoiding an apnea. Some research shows that this method can help reduce severity of sleep apnea up to 70%
- Surgery: Surgery is often times considered a last resort as many are invasive/aggressive procedures that have an underwhelming success rate. Some surgeries include shrinking tissue from your soft palate, slightly relocating the jaw, opening the airway in the throat, Implants or the removal of different tissue. The average success rate of Sleep Apnea surgery is roughly 60%.
Sleep Apnea is more common than you'd think. If you happen to snore, wake up with a sore throat or feeling groggy, or find yourself tired throughout the day it is possible that you are one of the millions of people who suffer from sleep apnea and remain undiagnosed. At MyMedicalOutlet, you can find out with our at home Sleep Apnea test and if necessary, rest assured that we have your back when its time to choose the best CPAP/BiPAP machine for your needs. Feel free to contact us with any questions and we will be happy to walk you through your path to a healthy and happy lifestyle!