Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder frequently characterized by the reduction or even complete cessation of breathing while an individual is sleeping. There are actually three different types of sleep apnea. They are obstructive apnea, central apnea, and a mix of obstructive and central apnea. While central apnea results from the ability of the brain to properly activate the muscle that control breathing during sleeping, obstructive apnea is caused when the airway collapses during sleep.
There is typically a strong correlation between snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when the flow of air making its way through a very narrow upper airway results in the nearby tissues vibrating. This can result in noises of various volumes and pitches. Simple snoring does not involve airway obstruction and can result from a variety of factors, including obesity, nasal congestion, and enlargement of the adenoid and tonsils.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, or OSAS, occurs when the upper airway becomes narrowed to the point that it is obstructed. Symptoms of this condition include loud snoring, frequent headaches, daytime sleepiness, transient obstructions, and nocturnal gasping. In order to evaluate a patient for OSAS, a detailed history and physical examination are typically performed. In most instances, a trans-nasal endoscopic examination may be performed, as well.
The Weight Factor
Weight loss can often prove to be an effective sleep apnea treatment, but for severe sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP therapy is considered the most effective treatment. CPAP therapy involves the use of a machine at night to apply air under pressure to the individual’s upper airway. This makes it possible to hold the upper airway open and prevent obstruction from occurring. The necessary air pressure is generally applied through a mask that the individual wears over his or her nose and mouth.
Other types of sleep apnea treatments are also available, including oral appliance therapy. This type of therapy works by pulling the tongue and jaw forward to provide improved airflow. Surgery may also be an option for treating mild sleep apnea. For instance, is the problem is related to an enlarged adenoid and/or tonsils, removal may prove to be an effective solution. Nasal surgery is also sometimes recommended in conduction with these procures or as a way of lowering the resistance of the upper airway to airflow.
Sleep apnea is relatively rare in children, but it can occur. In the case of pediatric patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, symptoms may include loud snoring, night terrors, bedwetting, or sleepwalking. The child may or may not experience obstructions or gasping. In most cases of pediatric OSAS, the problem is due to enlarged adenoid tissue or tonsils. Removal of the adenoid or tonsils is usually effective.
It’s Not Just a Lack of Sleep…
While the snoring that can result from sleep apnea can be make it difficult for the effected individual as well as their sleep partner to get a sound night of sleep, it can also be dangerous. When an individual stops breathing or takes in less than a normal breath for a period of time that last longer than 10 seconds, this can result in a serious drop in oxygen to the blood. Additionally, certain conditions, such as stroke, high blood pressure, insomnia, congestive heart failure, and mood disorders can worsened or even caused by sleep apnea.
For these reasons, it is imperative that individuals suffering from sleep apnea find an effective sleep apnea treatment that will allow them to obtain a sound sleep. In some instances, patients with mild sleep apnea may be able to treat the problem by modifying their behavior, thereby avoiding the need for surgery or using a CPAP machine. Examples of such behavior changes might include losing weight, changing sleep positions, avoiding alcohol, stopping smoking, and avoiding sleeping on your back. You may also find that elevating the head of your bed a few inches or elevating your body, that you are able to keep your airway open at night.
Learn More About Sleep Apnea & Contact Dr. Sherman Today About Your Treatment Options
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