A large percentage of the world’s population suffers from a sleep disorder called Sleep Apnea and millions more are in fact predisposed with a high chance of developing this illness. Apnea is a Greek word that means “without breath”. Sleep apnea is a condition where people stop breathing while they are asleep, in some cases, this can happen hundreds of times in one night for long periods at a time. For adult males, the odds are about 50/50 for having abnormal breathing during sleep. It is extremely important that anyone who may have this sleep disorder or be predisposed, or if you know someone who could have it, should properly educate themselves to gain a solid understanding of sleep apnea.
What exactly is Sleep apnea?
Have you ever wondered what is sleep apnea all about? If you have, this website is for you. Scott Fromherz, the author of the website, goes into great detail on what sleep apnea is, its symptoms and also its social implications. He also explains who the people are who are likely to get this sleeping disorder and does a very good job in educating readers on how sleep apnea can be treated.
What actually caught my eye the most was the section on the common misconceptions of which people are likely to get sleep apnea. Many of us have the impression that sleep apnea afflicts mainly obese or overweight people. However, according to Scott Fromherz, sleep apnea can affect all people including thin people, skinny women, and even young children. I imagine this will surprise many people, as it did me.
Another new fact that makes this article stand out is the revelation that people who do not snore can also suffer from sleep apnea! Most of the articles on sleep apnea seem to suggest that sleep apnea and snoring go hand and hand. But, this is not so, according to Scott Fromherz.
This highly informative site will provide you with the info you need to understand what is sleep apnea all about and will give you a deeper understanding of this common disorder.
Main categories of treatment for sleep apnea exist Surgery, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Behavioral Modification, medications, and Oral Appliances. The article below explains each of these treatment methods and its effectiveness in addressing the problem of sleep apnea.
Are you feeling sleepy all the time? Do you snore? Is your doctor having a difficult time treating your high blood pressure? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might have Sleep Apnea (also called Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA).
Sleep Apnea is a condition involving pauses or decreases in breathing during sleep. It is usually due to airway collapse. This collapse occurs in the nose and/or the throat – anywhere from where air enters the nostrils to the back of the tongue. Imagine a straw collapsing when trying to suck on a thick milkshake.
Frequently, this airway collapsibility problem is inherited and starts in childhood. In the daytime, it is not a problem because there is good muscle-tone in the airway and the brain monitors breathing. But at night, the throat muscles become relaxed and the brain is not as attentive to the airway. So, on inhalation, the airway walls can either completely collapse or significantly narrow. This is a problem because 1) the body must struggle to breathe and 2) the brain has to “wake up” to reopen the airway.
These frequent awakenings lead to fragmentation of nighttime sleep. You may not remember them because they are so short. In fact, patients with sleep apnea can wake-up more than 30 times an hour and think that they slept uninterrupted through the night. Since sleep must be continuous and consolidated in order to be restorative, a number of cognitive problems can occur with sleep fragmentation: daytime sleepiness, memory problems, concentration difficulties, emotional instability, irritability, slowed reaction time, and most importantly, an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.
There are also cardiovascular consequences of this constant “struggling to breathe.” This puts a strain on the heart and blood vessels, leading to increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Finally, there are social implications to Sleep Apnea. The snoring associated with sleep apnea can disrupt the sleep of others. In fact, one study showed that when a person treats his/her sleep apnea, the sleep partner gets the equivalent of one hour more sleep per night.
Sleep apnea is a progressive disease and often gets worse with age. Weight gain, alcohol, and other sedating/relaxing substances exacerbate it.
Types of sleep apnea:
These are the two types of sleep apnea, with the latter being the rare one.
- Obstructive sleep apnea– In this type, the breathing is stopped due to the blockage of the airway. This happens when the muscle relaxation during sleep cause the soft tissue at the back of the throat to collapse.
- Central sleep apnea– Under this type, the airway is not blocked as such but the unstable respiratory center results in the failure of the brain to signal to the muscles to breathe during sleep.
Who Gets Sleep Apnea?
A common misconception is that only overweight man that snore loudly have sleep apnea, but the facts are:
1) Sleep apnea can occur without snoring
2) Thin people can have sleep apnea
3) Women can have sleep apnea
4) Children can have sleep apnea
In other words, anyone can have it. Even skinny women. Even children.
The breathing disruption brought on by sleep apnea does not happen during the daytime due to the stiffness of muscle in the airway that promotes normal breathing. Sleep apnea is present when:
- The throat muscles relax more than the normal amount
- Larger tongue and tonsils, with a narrower windpipe
- Excess weight that causes an extra layer of fat to form in the throat
- The unusual shape of the head
The persons who are at greater risk of developing sleep apnea are those who are male, overweight, older than forty, have nasal obstruction from certain problems, genetically inclined, and have a large neck size.
Signs and symptoms
Among the many signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, the one that is more frequently observed is that of chronic and loud snoring. This tends to be more when the individual sleeps by lying on the back. Another symptom that is also easily recognizable is feeling extremely sleepy in the daytime and falling asleep quickly when not active. The affected individual is also likely to experience difficulty concentrating, trouble learning, headache, irritation, depression, mood swings, and waking up with a dry mouth.
I Think I Might Have Sleep Apnea, How Do I Find Out If I Have It?
Make an appointment with your primary care physician, or if your insurance allows it, go straight to a sleep specialist. If your physician thinks you might have sleep apnea, then he/she can refer you for a sleep study or comprehensive sleep evaluation.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Once you know what is sleep apnea, the next step would be to examine how this condition can be treated. Basically, there are four main categories, which are the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Surgery, Oral Appliances, medications, and Behavioural Modification.
The most effective way to treat sleep apnea is with CPAP. CPAP is a mask worn over the nose attached by a hose to an air compressor. The air compressor gently and quietly blows room-air into the nose, which “stents” the airway open, preventing airway collapse. This is the most effective way to treat sleep apnea, and all patients diagnosed with sleep apnea should at least try it before considering other options.
Surgery can be an effective way to treat sleep apnea. A number of different procedures can be performed. These range from nasal septum repair to jaw reconstruction. Talk to your doctor about whether surgery is the right option for you.
An oral appliance is a device made by a dentist or an orthodontist designed to pull your lower jaw forward. By pulling your lower jaw forward, the tongue is pulled away from the back of the throat. If your airway obstruction is occurring behind the tongue, then this can be an effective way to treat your sleep apnea. The treatment of sleep apnea with oral appliance should be a coordinated effort between the sleep physician, the dentist/orthodontist, and the patient.
Sleep medications and drugs that can produce muscle relaxation are generally not used for managing sleep medication. However, research has shown that consuming Ambien can aid in treating central sleep apnea. Ambien, the brand name of Zolpidem, is typically used for treating insomnia.
According to the research on the sleep medication for central sleep apnea, patients who were administered with the drug over a period of six weeks showed a marked decline in the condition. Sleep apnea is generally characterized by a minimum of five episodes in an hour. The research on Ambien demonstrated results wherein the number of episodes in an hour dropped from around 30 to about 7 per hour. These results are very promising indeed.
Further research is required to determine the suitable dosage of Ambien for the treatment of central sleep apnea. The safety of use is also yet to be fully established. The doctors that do prescribe Ambien for this condition may do by providing an off-label prescription. The drug may not work in curing the sleep disorder but it has definitely opened avenues for exploring this option.
Ambien is taken only under medical supervision as it has the mild potential for abuse and addiction. If you wish to try this particular sleeping pill for your sleep apnea, then request the doctor for the same so it can be safely used.
To know more about the popular drugs, kindly read our Product Review Section where we have discussed about the below mentioned two popular sleep aid drugs.
Behavioral modifications can help in the treatment of sleep apnea but are usually the least effective. These include such techniques as weight loss, sleeping on your side, and avoiding alcohol before bedtime.
None of these treatment options is ideal, but they all can be useful in treating sleep apnea and resulting in more restful sleep. With risks like heart attack and stroke, you should do everything you can to get your sleep apnea under control. If you think you have sleep apnea, contact your doctor or go to a sleep center. It could be the best decision you ever made.