It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially dangerous sleep disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The two main types of sleep apnea are obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form of sleep apnea and is defined as the type of sleep apnea that occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway while you are sleeping. One of the more noticeable signs of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. Central sleep apnea on the other hand is due to the brain failing to transmit the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Both obstructive and central sleep apnea, while very different in source, have similar symptoms. This can make it difficult to initially determine which a patient is suffering from. Some symptoms are alarming while others may go unnoticed for a long time. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea are undiagnosed. Some of the more subtle symptoms include:
-Difficulty paying attention while awake
-Awakening with a dry mouth
-Difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
Some of the more alarming symptoms, which can become dangerous, include gasping for air during sleep, awakening with shortness of breath, and episodes in which you completely stop breathing while sleeping.
Sleep apnea can be extremely dangerous, even resulting in death. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 38,000 people in the United States die each year from heart disease with sleep apnea as the direct complicating factor (Meaning, with sleep apnea treatment, it could have been avoided). Other risks of leaving sleep apnea untreated include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, inability to properly function when awake, and even risk of vehicle accidents due to falling asleep at the wheel.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
If you suffer from mild sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend starting with a few small lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eliminating certain habits such as smoking or alcohol, changing sleep positions, and minimizing use of sleeping pills or certain over the counter medications that cause the throat muscles to relax.
If you require more than a few lifestyle changes, there are a few treatment options available for sleep apnea including but not limited to:
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
CPAP is the most common treatment option offered for sleep apnea. It is simply a mask connected to a machine that you wear while you sleep. The machine provides constant airflow into your nose and mouth that keeps your airways open to ensure you can breathe the way you should.
The TAP is a custom made dental device that is designed to keep your airway open while you sleep. It is an excellent alternative to the CPAP machine for milder cases of sleep apnea.
If the underlying source of your sleep apnea is from a medical condition that makes your throat too narrow, or from sinus and nasal complications, surgery may be an option for you. There are surgical options that can drastically reduce, or even eliminate sleep apnea such as nasal surgery to fix a deviated septum, procedures to widen the opening of your throat, and other types of soft palate surgeries. Talk to your doctor to see if surgery is a solution for you.
Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulator
At Camellia ENT, we offer a unique sleep apnea treatment called Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation. Our very own Dr. Foreman is the only surgeon in the state to offer this treatment. It is the only FDA approved obstructive sleep apnea treatment that works within the body to find and treat the root cause of your sleep apnea. It is a small device placed during an outpatient procedure that opens your airways while you sleep allowing you to breathe normally and sleep peacefully. To learn more about this procedure, click here.
Sleep apnea is not something to ignore. If you or a loved one shows any signs of sleep apnea, we encourage you to take a deeper look with your doctor. Set up an appointment with Camellia ENT to discuss sleep apnea today!