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Sleep Apnea

 

Snoring can be a sign of a serious sleep breathing disorder called sleep apnea. When you go to sleep muscles in your body tend to relax. This includes the muscles in the throat and upper airway. This relaxation causes a narrowing of the airway and can cause difficulty breathing at night. Snoring is caused by air being forced through a restricted airway. An apnea is when the airway becomes completely blocked and the body is essentially suffocating. The brain senses this and increases the diaphragms effort to breathe. Eventually the brain begins to panic and sends a signal to the body to awaken and take a deep breath. This event is very traumatic to the body and will repeat once the body begins to relax again.

First‚ this arousal disrupts and fragments your sleep. The awakenings are so short that the person will often times never remember awakening. Fragmented sleep can lead to symptoms of daytime sleepiness‚ fatigue‚ difficulty with memory and concentration‚ and trouble with losing weight. These apneas and arousals can happen hundreds of times a night and the body is not getting the restorative sleep it needs because it is constantly being interrupted.

Second‚ while the body is not breathing‚ the oxygen level in the blood can easily dive to dangerous levels for the heart‚ brain and other organs. Dangerously low blood oxygen levels can be fatal as the organs will shut down because they are not getting any oxygen. Low blood oxygen levels caused by sleep apnea can trigger a morning headache.

Third‚ during an apnea‚ the heart rate slows‚ but is violently accelerated when the body gasps for air. This continuous shock to the cardiovascular system over time can increase the risk for heart attach‚ stroke and high blood pressure. A commonly overlooked symptom of this is regularly waking up to use the bathroom at night.

The treatments for sleep apnea depend on how severe the breathing trouble is. For some with mild sleep apnea‚ weight loss may improve breathing during sleep but does not stop the apneas. Others may try sleeping on their side using creative methods like attaching a tennis ball to the back of their pajamas because the apneas are predominately observed when they sleep on their back. Still some with mild sleep apnea may find relief using medications to clear nasal stuffiness along with using nasal dilator strips like Breathe Right Nasal strips.

The best treatment for sleep apnea is Positive Airway Pressure (PAP). This highly effective therapy uses a machine that sends pressurized room air into a light mask that is worn over the nose and/or mouth. This air pressure holds open the throat and airway. This does not allow the apneas to occur and restorative and refreshing sleep returns. The downside of this treatment is that many people find the masks too uncomfortable‚ cumbersome or embarrassing‚ but the bright side is no snoring‚ renewed energy‚ increased awareness‚ decreased daytime sleepiness‚ better memory and concentration‚ less use of the bathroom at night‚ improved sexual performance and weight loss. Many of our patients have reported fantastic results by sticking with the therapy and using the CPAP support services we offer like the Free CPAP Clinic‚ Insomnia Clinic‚ Nap Study‚ Mask Fit and most importantly clinic visits with our Sleep Specialist.

Another option for mild to moderate sleep apnea is an oral appliance. This device is like a mouth guard that when worn at night opens the airway by bring the jaw forward or raising the soft palate. An oral appliance typically does not treat severe sleep apnea and can cause excessive salivation‚ jaw pain‚ gagging or dental problems.

Surgery is still another option for sleep breathing problems that include enlarge tonsils or adenoids (children mostly)‚ nasal polyps‚ a deviated nasal septum or certain sizes and/or dimensions of the face‚ jaw or soft palate. Nasal operations may help snoring but are not very effective at treating sleep apnea‚ although it may be used as part of a plan for overall treatment. Surgery is available, but should be considered as a last resort.

Another option for mild to moderate sleep apnea is an oral appliance. This device is like a mouth guard that when worn at night opens the airway by bring the jaw forward or raising the soft palate. An oral appliance typically does not treat severe sleep apnea and can cause excessive salivation‚ jaw pain‚ gagging or dental problems.

 

 

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