Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes your breathing to stop and start at intervals while you sleep. The intervals are said to occur around five times within an hour, at 10 seconds more or less every time.
It's not just caused by your sleeping position, or due to alcohol intake, or old age. It's a known concern because it may lead to some health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure.
A person with sleep apnea usually has these symptoms:
- Snores loudly
- Sleep restlessly, with several awakenings during the night
- Night sweats
- Has mouth or throat dryness after waking up
- Fatigue and sleepiness during the day
- Mood swings, like irritability, anxiety, or depression
Sleep apnea has lots of other symptoms. These symptoms may not be too noticeable to be alarmed about, but it's best that you have your symptoms checked. It's always advisable to visit a sleep apnea clinic near you to better diagnose if what you have is just common snoring or if you already have a sleep disorder.
Here are the steps on how to choose the best treatment option for your condition:
Know The Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea. And whether you already need medical intervention or not depends on what type of sleep apnea you have:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA occurs when the tongue and those soft muscles in your throat relax. When this happens, your airway gets obstructed, causing your breathing to stop momentarily. This type of sleep apnea is most common, and it's usually found to cause very loud snoring.
You may find yourself waking up several times during the night just to catch your breath if you have obstructive sleep apnea. Your brain detects a lack of oxygen every time breathing is obstructed. That is why it signals your body to wake up, to breathe.
A sleep test is often used by doctors to diagnose this type of sleep apnea. This is to measure the heart and lungs and the brain's activity during sleep. It's done either in sleep clinics or centers or at a sleep disorder unit in a hospital.
A device to open and supply a steady flow of air in your airways is also available to help relieve breathing while you sleep. This is called the continuous positive airway pressure or the CPAP machine. This is worn like a mask over your nose and mouth to open your airways while you sleep.
There's also an oral device that helps open your jaw to allow better airflow while you sleep. It also prevents the tongue, and other soft tissues within, from obstructing your breathing.
Central Sleep Apnea
This type of sleep apnea is diagnosed when you stop breathing at intervals while you sleep. This happens when your brain no longer sends a signal to your diaphragm and other muscles, which controls your breathing. It causes you to wake up to catch your breath several times while sleeping.
There is no obstruction in your breathing airways in central sleep apnea. But this is usually associated with health problems, like heart failure and stroke. And people sleeping at high altitudes are also found to experience central sleep apnea.
Other factors, such as hypothyroidism, kidney failure, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's, are found to be associated with central sleep apnea as well.
Treatment of central sleep apnea is not really focused on. The emphasis is on treating the sicknesses that brought about this type of sleep disorder. The CPAP may momentarily relieve the difficulty in your breathing, but it won't fix this sleep disorder.
Your doctor may recommend having implants designed to help remedy this kind of sleep apnea. It's an implant in the upper chest that helps trigger the diaphragm to regulate breathing.
There are also medications that your doctor may recommend to relieve the symptoms of this type of apnea.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CompSAS)
This type of sleep disorder is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Patients with this type of sleep disorder still suffer from breathing difficulties even after breathing obstructions are already treated.
It's assumed that CompSAS is also caused by the airway's reaction to the CPAP administration for patients originally diagnosed with OSA. But studies are still being conducted to further define this type of sleep apnea and to find effective treatment management for it.
Understand The Different Treatment Options
For most, simple changes in lifestyle can help treat their sleep apnea. However, there can be times when medical intervention is needed. It's important to understand the different treatment options so that you can be prepared for them, such as:
Lifestyle changes may be recommended by your doctor to help you manage your sleep disorder. Adopting a healthy diet to reduce weight, stop smoking, avoid your allergens could be some of those recommendations.
A treatment plan for your nasal allergies may also be on the list to help ease away some causes of obstructions in your nose and throat. A sleep specialist may also recommend some sleeping positions to avoid breathing obstructions while you sleep to help you manage your sleep disorder.
Some find the continuous positive airway pressure device and other airway pressure devices uncomfortable to wear while sleeping. Some even complained of getting more symptoms after using these devices.
Others prefer oral appliances recommended by dentists. These devices are designed to open your jaw to allow the opening of your throat to avoid difficulty in breathing. These tools are often recommended to patients with mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea as well as to patients who can tolerate having these devices in their mouth while they sleep.
The doctor may need to remove those tissues obstructing your throat to relieve your sleep apnea. A procedure to shrink that obstructive tissue in your throat may also be an option.
Another option is to have implants in the soft palate to help normal breathing during sleep. Some patients have stimulators inserted into the nerve that controls the movement of the tongue to avoid obstruction in the throat. Others opt to undergo tracheostomy, a procedure where a tube is inserted into the neck to serve as a new passageway for your breathing.
Surgery is only resorted to after all the other options fail to relieve the sleep apnea disorder. It will be better to discuss them thoroughly with your sleep specialist before going through with it.
Consult Your Doctor
Know your symptoms, and talk to your sleep specialist. They can help you decide what will be the best treatment option for your sleep disorder. You can choose from the options presented above and discuss with your doctor what will work best for you.
Your sleep specialist will lead you through these remedies and treatment options, depending on the type of sleep disorder you may have. Consult your doctor now. You may find that your treatment option is not as cumbersome as you think it is.
Choosing the Best Option
One of the options discussed above may be the best for you. Knowing what type of sleep apnea you have, and having a thorough consultation with your sleep specialist, will lead you to the best option.
So, whether it's a lifestyle change, surgery, or therapy you choose, it'll be the best choice for you. As long as you have thoroughly studied all options with your sleep specialist, then you will soon have a good night's sleep.
Those who begin using their CPAP devices, often begin to experience immediate positive results including:
Elimination of snoring and breathing obstructions.
Improvement in quality of nightly sleep.
Prevention or reversal of serious health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Lower blood pressure both during the day and at night.
Increased alertness during the day.
Significant decrease of daytime drowsiness.