Sleep apnea does more than interrupt a good night’s sleep. It’s an insidious unrecognized chronic disease state that can lead to or exacerbate deadly medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and stroke. But it is treatable – and REPAP.com can help.
Different types of sleep apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea, and the way they manifest in your body is different. But the end result is the same -- all three deprive your body of oxygen.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form of sleep apnea that occurs when your throat muscles relax, blocking your lungs from receiving oxygen.
Central sleep apnea is less common, and it occurs when your brain doesn't properly signal the muscles in your body that control breathing.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is the least common of all three. This occurs when someone exhibits signs of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea costs you more than a good night’s sleep – it’s detrimental to your health, well-being and happiness. With the right approach, it can be successfully treated – but the first step is diagnosis. Four out of five sleep apnea sufferers don’t know they’re affected. There are various symptoms – some of them very common – that may mean you have sleep apnea.
Do you feel tired every day, despite getting a full eight hours of sleep? Do you experience sometimes overwhelming feelings of exhaustion throughout the day? These are potential signs of sleep apnea. Because people with sleep apnea wake up repeatedly – sometimes hundreds of times a night – they are never able to reach or stay in the deepest cycles of sleep necessary to recharge the body. As a consequence, they wake up feeling tired, and may also experience morning headaches, blurred vision and dry mouth.
This continuous exhaustion is more than simply an annoyance – it can pose serious risk to your health and well-being. Sleep apnea sufferers experience decreased concentration, memory, energy and libido. They may also experience mood swings, irritability and poor performance at work or school. Sleep apnea sufferers may “nod off” during the day – including while driving – creating a serious danger to themselves and others. If you experience consistent, even daily exhaustion, you should get tested for sleep apnea.
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea – but just about everyone who has sleep apnea snores. Snoring is the most common and most noticeable symptom of sleep apnea. Since it is so common, people rarely get concerned about it – aside from the annoyed partner who has to deal with it. The reality is, however, that snoring should be taken seriously.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea causes the tongue, soft palate and uvula to fall onto the back of the throat, blocking airflow. When air is partially inhibited in this manner, breath must squeeze through the narrow passage of the airway, causing the soft palate and uvula to vibrate, producing the sound of snoring. A complete closure of the airway may result in the patient choking or gasping for air as they wake up. These frequent awakenings are often alarming to the individual and/or their bed partner.
Those suffering from sleep apnea may experience additional symptoms which, at first glance, may seem unrelated, but can be red flags:
How to treat sleep apnea
You can treat sleep apnea a few ways, and many people go through a series of trial treatments to find out what works best for their sleep apnea. Sometimes, it takes takes a series of trials to find the best treatment, and most people end up using a combination of common equipment, machines and therapies to get relief.
Treatment options for sleep apnea include:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Most people who seek treatment for sleep apnea start with CPAP. You choose a CPAP mask, which sends a pressurized airflow through your throat to open your airways while you sleep. If you use a CPAP, make sure to keep it clean.
Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)/(VPAP): Similar to a CPAP, a BiPAP also provides a pressurized flow of air. The key difference is that it provides two different streams -- one as you breathe in, and one as you breathe out.
Chinstrap: Usually used in conjunction with a CPAP, chinstraps help you to stop breathing through your mouth.
Oral appliances: If you don't have severe sleep apnea, you could try custom-fitted oral devices that help keep your airway open. Just make sure to get one from a qualified dentist or orthodontist, not a one-size-fits-all appliance from the internet.
Usually, your doctor won't recommend surgery unless all other options have failed to treat and improve your sleep apnea. Most doctors suggest at least a three-month trial of other options before recommending surgery, which can include nasal reconstruction (such as to fix a deviated septum) or removal of adenoids -- the soft tissue in the back of your throat.
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