Over 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and it is estimated that this disorder goes undiagnosed in yet another 10 million people. This sleep disorder is characterized by pauses in breathing during the night that can last between a couple of seconds up to minutes, depending on the type of apnea experienced. These pauses can also happen numerous times per hour. The nature and number of the pauses are used to calculate the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI), a number that determines the severity of the apnea.
Everyone can be affected by this disorder, adults and children alike. It is however more likely to affect men as they grow older or gain weight, but it frequently affects women as well, although they generally experience milder symptoms.
If you or someone you know have been diagnosed with this disorder, or if you suspect you have this sleep disorder, this website will give you all the information you need to know about this disorder and present you with different treatment options.
Types of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is classified in three types, depending on what causes the pauses in breathing at night.
Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is by far the most common type of apnea. It is usually caused by the collapsing of the soft tissues in the back of the throat, and is often accompanied by loud snoring.
Central sleep apnea
Central sleep apnea, or CSA, happens when the brain fails to send to signal to breathe. The pauses caused by central apnea can last for minutes. This condition can have grave health consequences.
Complex sleep apnea
Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both OSA and CSA. Sometimes, people who develop one type of apnea will also have a tendency to develop the other type over time. When both happen at the same time, the condition is called complex sleep apnea and can usually be treated with a PAP machine.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
It is very hard to self-diagnose this disorder because it happens while you are sleeping. However, the most common symptoms are:
- Loud snoring
- Long pauses during breathing while sleeping
- Dry mouth and sore throat in the morning
- Choking and snorting sounds while sleeping
- Being tired during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequent trips to the restrooms during the night
Dangers of sleep apnea
This condition can have serious consequences on the health of a person. Among them:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- At worst, sudden death
There are a few treatment options available for sufferers of this sleep disorder, the most popular and effective being:
The continuous positive airway pressure device, or CPAP, is a respiratory aid machine that allows the patient to breathe correctly throughout the night. A facemask placed on the patient’s head provides him with a continuous stream of air. Some newer machines, such as the VPAP, will adapt themselves to the breathing of the patient and are most effective treating CSA.
Oral appliance therapy
Oral appliance therapy can sometimes be used with mild obstructive sleep apnea. A mouthpiece, either a generic version or one that is specifically moulded to the patient’s mouth, is placed in the mouth before going to bed. This appliance helps keep the airways open during the night and can also help reduce snoring.
This OSA will be worst when sleeping on the back. Some special pillows can be used to help the patient sleep on his side, helping him breathe better during the night.
Surgery can sometimes be effective treating OSA. Soft tissues such as the tonsils can be removed from the back of the throat, opening up the airways and offering less resistance to airflow during breathing.
Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder that can greatly diminish the quality of life of a person. Make sure to consult with a physician if you suspect you suffer from this disorder.