Sleep apnea is a common disorder that occurs while you sleep. The Greek word “apnea” literally means “without breath” and you experience shallow breaths or one or more pauses in your breathing while sleeping. These pauses in breathing last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. You may hear a loud choking or snort sound when your normal breathing resumes.
Like most people, you may not know you have sleep apnea because it only occurs during sleep. The signs of your sleep apnea may be noticed first by your family member and/or bed partner. While snoring may not be a sign of anything serious, if your loud snoring includes brief periods of silence, or if you are left fatigued, irritable, and/or sleepy during daytime, you may have sleep apnea. Our doctor performs procedures to treat sleep apnea for patients in our region and you should schedule an appointment with our doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause headaches, weight gain, and memory problems as well as impotency, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Sleep apnea – types and symptoms
The three main types of sleep apnea include obstructive, central, and complex, with obstructive apnea being the most common.
The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are periods of breathing cessation while sleeping; being awakened abruptly by shortness of breath; hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness); and loud snoring. With obstructive sleep apnea most often the airway has collapsed or is blocked. This may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses. Any air that enters through this blockage can cause loud snoring.
Central sleep apnea commonly occurs with obstructive sleep apnea, but can occur alone. With central sleep apnea the part of your brain that controls breathing doesn’t transmit the proper signals to your breathing muscles. For brief periods this results in no effort made to breathe.
Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
What causes sleep apnea?
Each type of sleep apnea has a different root cause. Anyone can develop sleep apnea, however obstructive sleep apnea is more prevalent in people who are overweight, and may also be developed by small children with enlarged tonsil tissues. Other risk factors include being over the age of forty, being male, having a large neck circumference, tonsils or adenoids, having a narrow throat, or the use of sedatives, tranquilizers, alcohol, and smoking.
Central sleep apnea can also occur in anyone, however heart disease, hypertension, and less commonly, a stroke are causes, and it’s more common in people who use certain medicines or have particular medical conditions.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can have significant consequences, and yet because of lack of awareness, a vast majority of people remain undiagnosed and thereby untreated.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Our doctor has a range of treatments for sleep apnea that may include mouthpieces, long-term lifestyle changes, and surgery and/or breathing devices that for many people have successfully treated sleep apnea.