According to the Cleveland Clinic, 24 percent of men and 9 percent of women have sleep apnea. Those numbers may have gone up—in tandem with obesity rates—since some time has passed since that study. However, the majority of individuals with sleep apnea go undiagnosed, which leads to the perception that sleep apnea is uncommon.
Sleep apnea can affect a broad range of people. It can often be confused or comorbid with depression, fatigue, or a long list of other symptoms, which contributes to underreporting. Aside from the consequences of sleep loss, such as underperformance at work, sleep apnea can result in serious complications. Read on to learn about what sleep apnea is, how to recognize it, and how to seek treatment.
What is Sleep Apnea?
The National Institutes of Health defines sleep apnea as a “common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.” It is a chronic condition that moves the sleeper from deep to light sleep every time breathing stops and restarts. As such, it is a leading cause of daytime sleepiness.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type, in which the airway passage collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. Often, the sleeper’s tongue is pulled towards the back of his or her throat, blocking the airway, decreasing oxygen supply to the brain, and causing the sleeper to wake. Those who have OSA generally have low blood oxygen levels, and like other sleep apnea sufferers, may struggle with daytime tiredness, lack of focus, and depression.
Another less common form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. In central sleep apnea, the neural pathways from the region of the brain responsible for respiration do not send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles. Unlike in OSA, central sleep apnea does not usually result in snoring. OSA can, however, co-occur with central sleep apnea.
If left untreated, sleep apnea results on fatigue that might cause accidents at work or on the road. In addition, those who have sleep apnea have increased risks of heart attack, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Almost anyone can have sleep apnea, but certain factors increase your risks of sleep apnea. Those who are at increased risk for OSA may:
• Be obese. Those who are obese are four times more likely to develop sleep apnea than people who are not obese due to fat deposits around the airway that may block breathing.
• Have narrow airways. People with thick necks could have narrow airways, leading to blockage. Even those without thick necks may naturally have narrow airways, resulting in the same elevated risk.
• Be a man. Males are twice as likely to develop sleep apnea as females, although the risk for females increases with weight and menopause.
• Be older. Sleep apnea is more common in older individuals.
• Use substances. Alcohol and sedatives relax throat muscles, while smoking leads to inflammation in the airway.
• Have family members with sleep apnea. This makes it more likely that a person will also have sleep apnea.
• Be nasally congested. If a person has difficulty breathing through his or her nose, it increases his or her chance of developing OSA.
Risks for central sleep apnea increase with age, narcotics use, and existent heart disorders or history of stroke.
How can You Treat Sleep Apnea?
The first step of seeking treatment is recognizing the symptoms of sleep apnea. The second step is to find a reputable practice that is well-equipped to treat you. After taking a detailed medical history, doctors will likely take x-rays of the skull or conduct a nasopharyngeal exam to determine your skull’s anatomical layout and level of obstruction. Doctors may want to monitor you overnight to conduct a sleep study.
There are a variety of treatments available for sleep apnea. First, positive airway pressure therapy uses a special mask that stimulates proper oxygen flow through your airways while you sleep. Second, an uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP) is a surgical option on the upper airways. The soft palate is tightened, and may be done with the assistance of a laser.
At Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of New York, Dr. Majid Jamali and his team specialize in one of the most effective ways to treat sleep apnea. This third way is called orthognathic surgery, in which the mandible and/or maxilla—your jaw bones—are repositioned in order to widen the airway. Orthognathic surgery is the most appropriate option when it is clear that a patient’s OSA is the result of jaw misalignment, or when the jaw is misaligned with teeth. Unlike UPPP, which requires only light anesthesia, orthognathic surgery is done with the patient under general anesthesia, follow by at least one overnight hospital stay.
Where Should I Go to Get My Sleep Apnea Treated?
Dr. Jamali at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of New York is a premier diagnosis and treatment resource for sleep apnea sufferers. Dr. Jamali will use 3D modeling and computer techniques to show you the exact surgical procedures he will be performing. Not only will these pre-surgery discussions show you how you will look after surgery, but they are also key to establishing a stable and trusting doctor-patient relationship.
Dr. Jamali is a member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology as well as the American and New York Dental Associations.
During the consult, you should ask any questions or concerns about your treatment plan and surgery. The team at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery of New York are committed to helping their patients understand the process and benefits of orthognathic treatment.
Dr. Jamali’s practice is located at 42 Broadway, Suite 1501 New York, NY 10004, and can be reached by phone at 212-480-2777. Whether you suffer from OSA or central sleep apnea, reaching out can have a positive impact on your ability to get a full night’s sleep, and to your overall health.