What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea, or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder where breathing is intermittent during sleep because the airway becomes obstructed. The obstruction is usually by the soft tissue in the back of your throat. Your brain responds by waking you up just enough to clear the obstruction. This continual cycle of rousing out of deep sleep is not known by the patient. OSA disturbs normal sleep patterns and causing patients to not get enough rest. Furthermore, the great stress is put on the entire body and the organ systems. Those with OSA can experience hundreds of episodes each night without being aware of it.
How serious is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
OSA is a somber, chronic problem that, left untreated, can contribute to numerous health problems, including:
What are the symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
The many symptoms and side effects of OSA include:
- Habitual fatigue – feeling tired all the time even if it seems like you’re getting enough hours of sleep at night
- Extremely loud, disruptive snoring
- Choking or gasping for breath while sleeping
- Waking up with headaches and/or dry throat
- Having trouble concentrating
- Memory or learning problems
- General irritability, mood swings or depression
- Chronic sleepiness —Nodding off easily (For example, while reading, watching TV or stopped at a traffic light)
Can Sleep Apnea be treated?
Luckily, OSA has several different treatment options, including using a CPAP machine, surgery, lifestyle changes and oral appliances. Once you have been diagnosed with OSA, your medical team and you can determine which therapy is the right solution for you.
For those with mild OSA, making a few lifestyle changes can help. Losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol or medicines that make you drowsy, sleeping on your side instead of your back, and using nasal sprays or allergy medicines at night can all help OSA.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). CPAP is a safe, elective treatment for OSA where constant, mild air pressure is rammed through a mask and down the trachea. This keeps the airway open, which prevents apnea from occurring. CPAP therapy does have some disadvantages which may lead patients to stop using the machine. These problems include discomfort wearing the mask while sleeping, transporting the equipment while traveling, irritation with the noise created by the CPAP machine and difficulty exhaling against the flow of air from the machine.
There are several different surgical options that may help those who have OSA, including widening the breathing passages, removing the tonsils, shrinking or stiffening excess tissue, or removing excess tissue. However, the benefits of surgery are often short lived.
OSA can be easily and effectively treated with a specially-made oral appliance that helps properly position the jaw so that your airways stay open all night. The Mandibular Advancement Device helps pull the lower jaw and tongue forward. This re-positioning keeps the airway open.
How can I tell if I have Sleep Apnea?
First is to talk to Drs. West and Nugent. They will prescribe a home sleep test as a sleep test is the ONLY way to determine if you have sleep apnea. A board-certified sleep physician will read the study and give a diagnosis. Then our office can start treating you for sleep apnea.