Sleep apnea is a condition that impacts millions of Americans, and the number of people suffering from the disease is increasing every year. With this condition, the person suffering from it stops breathing while sleeping; in some cases, this lasts a few seconds, while for others, it can last a minute, or even more. This lack of breathing is harmful to the body and also disrupts sleep, preventing the individual from ever achieving deep, restorative sleep. For those with the worst cases of the disease, these lapses in breathing can happen more than 30 times in a single hour.
Types of Sleep Apnea
While it is rare for people to refer to sleep apnea as anything other than sleep apnea outside of a medical setting, there are actually three different forms of the disease. The most common form is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and is the culprit in 84% of sleep apnea cases. As the name implies, it occurs when something obstructs the airflow, resulting in snoring or the inability to breathe. The next most common form is Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) where breathing is interrupted not by something blocking the airway, but by the lack of signal from the nervous system to stimulate the respiratory system. This form of sleep apnea is more dangerous than OSA. Finally, there is combination sleep apnea where the patient has both OSA and CSA.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Usually the first people to notice signs of sleep apnea are other people in the household, not the person with the condition. This is because the lack of breathing will wake them, but not enough to make them aware or able to remember the event. However, there are symptoms of the disease which are noticeable, if you know what you are looking for. If you notice any of the symptoms below, you should see a specialist to rule out sleep apnea.
- Daytime fatigue
- Slower reaction time
- Vision problems
- Difficulty paying attention or working effectively
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Sleep paralysis
- Loud snoring at night
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night
- Headaches in the morning
For mild cases, treatment usually is limited to using new sleeping positions or positioning pillows and losing weight. For moderate cases, we can create a device that shifts the lower jaw to keep the airway open. For severe cases, surgery may be needed as well as the use of a CPAP machine.