What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is an incredibly common sleep disorder. It can become potentially serious if left untreated. Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing stops during the night. The brain then realizes that the breathing has stopped and floods the body with chemicals in order to wake you up temporarily. You wake up for just a short period of time in order to correct your breathing and then fall right back to sleep. Generally, people with sleep apnea do not remember these short waking moments.
These disruptions in breathing can happen a few times a night or they can happen dozens of times per hour. And the temporary shortage of oxygen during an apnea puts stress on many different systems in your body.
There Are Three Different Types Of Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This happens when the muscles inside of the throat relax and collapse in order to pinch off the airway. Most people with this type of sleep apnea will experience heavy snoring but snoring is not necessarily a symptom of sleep apnea.
A more rare type of sleep apnea is known as Central Sleep Apnea. This has less to do with the mechanics of your throat and more to do with the workings of your brain. The brain does not send the proper signals to breathing muscles during the night. And an even more rare version of sleep apnea is known as Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome. This occurs when a patient has both Central and Obstructive sleep apnea at the same time.
It takes a sleep study under the supervision of a well-trained sleep doctor in order to diagnose the proper type of sleep apnea that you may have.
Who Is At Risk For Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age but it is most commonly seen alongside certain risk factors. These risk factors include excess body weight. People who are obese are up to four times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. Fat deposits in the upper airway put stress on the muscles inside of the throat during the night.
Neck circumference also plays a major factor and you do not have to be overweight in order to have a large neck circumference. Men with a neck circumference larger than 17 inches and women with a neck larger than 15 inches are at risk of a obstructive sleep apnea.
Some people are just born with narrow airways. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can also make it difficult to breathe at night. Children with sleep apnea commonly have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
Men are twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Older adults are at a significantly higher risk. People with a family history of sleep apnea are also at an increased risk. But young women without a family history of sleep apnea may also suffer if they happen to be overweight.
Alcohol, drug use and smoking also increases the risk of sleep apnea. Many sedatives and tranquilizers can relax the muscles in your throat making it difficult to breathe at night. Smoking increases your chances of sleep apnea threefold. Smoking causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway but your risk drops after you quit smoking.
What Does Sleep Apnea Feel Like?
Sleep apnea commonly occurs in people who snore loudly. People who snore loudly should be able to feel it in the morning inside of the back of their throat. Their throat may feel saggy, dry and irritated.
One of the best at-home tests that you can do to see if you have sleep apnea is to have someone watch you sleep. Another person will easily witness an episode of breathing cessation.
But people who suffer from sleep apnea often wake up tired. Since apnea does not allow you to get a full night’s sleep, causing you to suffer from attention problems throughout the day as well as irritability. The stress put on your cardiovascular system can also give you a headache in the morning.
The most concerning symptom of sleep apnea is an abrupt awakening accompanied by shortness of breath. You may wake up suddenly as if you are choking while you gasp for air. This major warning sign usually drives patients to a sleep doctor right away.
What Happens If Sleep Apnea Goes Untreated?
During an apnea episode, the oxygen in your blood drops which puts more stress on your cardiovascular system. If left untreated, this repeated stress on your cardiovascular system can wreak havoc. A study cited by Harvard Health Publications states that men with untreated severe sleep apnea are three times more likely to have cardiovascular trouble such as heart attacks, stroke and heart disease.
The Mayo Clinic also ran a study showing that untreated sleep apnea increased the likelihood of sudden death during sleep hours. Cardiovascular stress can lead to severe heart rhythm problems. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be treated.
What Types Of Treatments Are There?
There are three common types of sleep apnea treatment. Two of them involve physically breathing through an apparatus during the night. The third, and most effective, involves a particular type of sleep apnea surgery.
Some sleep apnea sufferers turn to a molded mouthpiece that pulls the lower jaw forward during the night. Pulling the lower jaw forward helps keep the airway open throughout the night. But the molded mouthpiece is known to shift teeth positions and be very uncomfortable.
Continuous positive airway pressure is another remedy. This involves a machine blowing air into your mouth and nose through a facemask. Many people are unable to sleep with the noise and the pressure from the mask.
The Most Effective Remedy — Jaw Surgery
Jaw surgery is the most effective remedy. The lower jaw is surgically moved forward to permanently keep the airway open. There is no need for a cumbersome mouthpiece or mask.
Don’t wait if you suspect that you suffer from Sleep Apnea. Invest in a healthy future by calling Dr. Jamali. Dr. Jamali has been practicing anesthesia, dentistry and surgery for more than a decade. Let him and his professional staff take care of you in his New York City Office. Call 212-480-2777 today to schedule your appointment and take control of your health!