What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder if left untreated. This disorder causes one’s breathing to stop briefly for several times during sleep. Sleep apnea sufferers may stop breathing for 10 seconds and this can occur repeatedly up to hundreds of times. This condition is usually characterised by loud snoring and tiredness even after a full night’s sleep. If you experience similar symptoms, you are most likely experiencing sleep apnea.
The respiratory air typically flows smoothly from your mouth and nose, which then enters your lungs. The period when breathing stops momentarily is called apnea. The air flow can stop because the airway space in your space becomes too too narrowed. Therefore, sleep apnea sufferers often snore during sleep because the air flow suppresses the narrowing airway space.
Untreatable sleep apnea disorders can put you at risk of serious health problems, such as hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. It is recommended to consult an ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctor to get the right treatment and the best solution.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is divided into several types. Below are three main types of sleep apnea disorders:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is the most common type that occurs when your throat muscles are relaxing.
- Central sleep apnea, is a sleep disorder that occurs when your brain is unable to send proper signals to the muscles that control the respiratory tract.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, is a type of sleep disorder syndrome that occurs when you suffer from both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, talk to your doctor immediately for treatment that helps alleviate the symptoms. Your doctor will diagnose the type of sleep apnea and help you prevent heart disease and other complications.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is caused by a variety of factors that you need to be aware of. The causes of sleep apnea can be categorised based on the types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea disorder occurs when the muscles at the back of your throat are in a relaxed state. These muscles cause the palate to become softer, softer uvula, tonsils, tongue and throat walls.
When the muscles relax, your respiratory tract narrows or even closes as you breathe. As a result, you cannot get enough oxygen supply and risk lowering oxygen levels in the blood.
Then, your brain experiences an inability to breathe and immediately wakes you from sleep to open the airway. This can happen very fast – so fast that you may not even remember it. This pattern occurs repeatedly up to 30 times or more every hour and throughout the night.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to transmit signals to the muscles of your respiratory tract. Since no signal is sent, the respiratory tract does not attempt to breathe for a short time. You may wake up with shallow breaths and have difficulty falling back to sleep when you experience Central Sleep Apnea.
When to See a Doctor for Sleep Apnea
Talk to your ENT specialist for sleep apnea disorders. Your doctor will evaluate your illness based on your symptoms and daily sleep patterns. If a sleep apnea disorder is found, it is likely that you will be referred to a sleep disorder center for further treatment.
The evaluation process often involves monitoring sleep for several nights at the sleep disorder center. There are various types of tests recommended by doctors to detect sleep apnea, including:
- Home sleep test. Your doctor may ask you to have a simple at-home sleep test to diagnose sleep apnea. This test is usually done by measuring your heart rate, the level of oxygen in your blood, your blood flow, and your breathing pattern.
- Nocturnal polysomnography. During this test, various equipment to monitor heart, lung, and brain activity will be connected to your body. That way, your doctor can observe breathing patterns, hand and leg movements, and oxygen levels in the blood while you sleep.
If the results of both types of tests are abnormal, your doctor may recommend further therapy.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
In some cases, the symptoms between obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea may often overlap, making it difficult to identify the type of sleep apnea. Below are the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea:
- Morning headaches
- Irritability for no reason
- Morning tiredness
- Loud snoring during sleep.
- Puff out air while sleeping.
- Your mouth feels dry when you wake up.
- You stop breathing briefly during sleep.
- Hypersomnia, excessive day time sleepiness
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Treatment for sleep apnea with mild and severe symptoms are certainly different. Your doctor may likely recommend lifestyle changes such as losing weight and quitting smoking if you have mild sleep apnea. In cases of severe sleep apnea, your doctor will likely recommend a number of other treatments available, such as:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). With CPAP, the incoming air pressure will be greater, so you don’t snore as it is enough to keep the upper respiratory tract open.
- Oral equipment. Oral equipment is designed to keep your throat open. CPAP is more effective than oral equipment, but oral equipment is easier to use. Some are designed to open the throat by moving the jaw forward.
- Other airway pressure devices. If the CPAP machine does not improve your condition, you can use other types of respiratory suppressors that automatically adjust the pressure while you sleep (automated CPAP). It provides more pressure when breathing and less when exhaling.
- Tissue removal. During this procedure, your doctor will remove tissue from the back of your mouth and the top of your throat. Tonsils and goiter glands are usually also removed.
- Tissue reduction. Tissue reduction is carried out at the back of your mouth and the back of your throat using radiofrequency ablation. This procedure offers lower risk than tissue removal.
- Jaw surgery (repositioning) This procedure is done to enlarge the space behind the tongue and soft palate. This lowers the probability of blocked airways.
Treatment Cost for Sleep Apnea
Treatment costs for sleep apnea vary greatly, depending on your doctor, your choice of hospital, and the recommended method of treatment.
For more details regarding the estimated treatment cost for sleeping apnea at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Sleep Apnea
Although there are no direct methods for preventing sleep apnea, there are many healthy lifestyle choices that can help prevent the condition, such as:
- Quit smoking.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Maintain an ideal weight.
- Exercise regularly and engage in physical activity.
- Avoid taking sleeping pills or sedatives before going to bed.
Home Remedies for Sleep Apnea
Your doctor will likely suggest home care treatments for your sleep apnea condition. This is done to prevent respiratory blockages. In some cases, self-care may be the best way for you to cope with sleep apnea. Try applying the following tips:
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Lose excess weight.
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
- Sleep on your side. Learn about the healthy sleep positions to maintain your breath during sleep.
Do you have similar symptoms or other symptoms of sleep disorders? Write them down in the comment section below or contact Smarter Health.