Sleep Apnea

Do you wake up most days feeling tired, sleep deprived, and/or irritable? You could be suffering from Sleep Apnea.

The World Health Organization, estimates 100 million individuals across the globe suffer from sleep apnea. In fact, an American Sleep Apnea Association report states that sleep apnea affects 1 in 4 men and 1 in 9 women across the United States. Therefore, it is estimated that as few as 50 million to as many as 70 million Americans have sleep apnea. In addition, it is speculated that close to 80 percent of all sleep apnea patients remain undiagnosed, causing people to potentially battle a host of life-threatening health risks such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Signs

  • Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
  • Loud snoring
  • Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
  • Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
  • Sleepiness while driving/drowsy driving
  • Morning headaches
  • Restless sleep
  • Forgetfulness, mood changes
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Recurrent awakenings or insomnia
  • You have diabetes or other health problems
  • Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes
  • Weight gain

What is sleep apnea?

While asleep, individuals with sleep apnea stop breathing for short periods of time. According to the America Lung Association, pauses in breathing can be just a few seconds to minutes, and occur as little as five (5) to as many as 30 times per hour. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is an obstruction or collapse of the airway, which impacts your breathing during sleep. For people with CSA, the airway is open but the brain does not send the correct message to the muscles inhibiting regular airflow. With no or little air freely flowing to your lungs, there is a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that sleep apnea is a debilitating and life-shortening condition that can impact not only your life but livelihood.

Sleep Apnea Facts

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is thought to be more prevalent than both asthma and adult diabetes, possibly affecting more than 50 million Americans
  • Public health advocates think it may be as big a public health hazard as smoking
  • The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimated that sleep apnea is probably responsible for 38,000 cardiovascular deaths yearly
  • Obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of heart failure by 140%, the risk of stroke by 60%, and the risk of coronary heart disease by 76%

What happens to my body during an apnea?

During sleep, your body undergoes many physiological changes. If you have OSA your soft palate sags and the tongue relaxes as it slides backward which can partially or totally obstruct your airway.

The condition can be further complicated by excessive weight, loss of muscle tone due to aging or excessive tissue in the upper airway. Additionally, sleeping on the back or alcohol use may increase apnea events. Few people are aware of the potential health hazards of sleep apnea if it is left untreated.

OSA can occur in varying degrees of severity from mild to moderate to severe. Whether your airway is narrowed, partially collapsed, or obstructed, snoring may occur and/or obstructed breathing can end with a gasp. If your airway is blocked, the oxygen levels in the body fall. As a resulting defense mechanism in the brain, your body is triggered to resume normal breathing once again by gasping or awakening.

What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 30 percent, or 40.6 million, American adults are sleeping six (6) or fewer hours a day, and night shift workers, particularly those in transportation, warehouse and health care industries are at the most risk of not getting enough sleep. Less sleep, coupled with potential sleep disorders can create health problems, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease – including sudden cardiac death
  • Stroke
  • Type-2 Diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Greater risk of car accidents due to drowsiness
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Decreased sex drive

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

One of the fundamental problems facing individuals who might suffer from sleep apnea is their lack of awareness of the condition and its symptoms. Hence, it is vitally important that any person experiencing sleep apnea symptoms receives an accurate sleep disorder diagnosis from their healthcare provider. If you feel you or your partner may have sleep apnea call us to schedule a consultation with one of our sleep medicine physicians.

One of the most common methods used to diagnose sleep apnea is a sleep study, which may require an overnight stay at a sleep center. The sleep study monitors a variety of functions during sleep including sleep state, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, respiratory effort, airflow, and blood oxygen levels. This test is used both to diagnose sleep apnea and to determine its severity.

Is it dangerous to leave sleep apnea untreated?

Certainly if your sleep apnea is left untreated, you will continue to experience disrupted sleep and fatigue can have very negative impacts on your overall health. With lack of restful sleep, it is likely you may have difficulty with concentration, reasoning, and reaction timing. What you may not realize is that you are at serious and higher risk to develop other health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart attack and heart failure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even experience accidents at work or behind the wheel of your car.

Factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea

  • A small upper airway (or large tongue, tonsils or uvula)
  • Being overweight
  • Having a recessed chin, small jaw or a large overbite
  • A large neck size (17 inches or greater in a man, or 16 inches or greater in a woman)
  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Age 40 or older
  • Ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific-Islanders and Hispanics)
  • Also, OSA seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic basis

What are Comprehensive Sleep Care Center’s treatment options?

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, the first thing to do is see your primary care doctor or schedule a consultation with one of our sleep medicine physicians. Bring with you a record of your sleep, fatigue levels throughout the day, and any other symptoms you might be having. Ask your bed partner if he or she notices that you snore heavily, choke, gasp, or stop breathing during sleep. Be sure to take an updated list of medications, including over the counter medications, with you any time you visit a doctor for the first time. You may want to call your medical insurance provider to find out if a referral is needed for a visit to a sleep center.

The good news is that sleep apnea is an easily and highly treatable condition – solutions are available that can help you rest easier, feel better during the day, and reduce your risk of potentially dangerous health complications. Outside of weight loss, where appropriate, two (2) of the mainstay options for the treatment of sleep apnea are:

  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
  • Continuous Open Airway Therapy (COAT) with ApneaGuard Oral Appliance

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure CPAP Therapy

CPAP treats OSA by applying positive airway pressure down the airway, essentially acting as a splint to keep the airway open during sleep, allowing normal breathing during sleep. CPAP is administered through a CPAP machine which supplies pressurized air through a tube and into a mask that is worn over the nose, or sometimes over the nose and the mouth. The increased air pressure prevents the sleeper’s airway from collapsing during sleep.

Continuous Open Airway Treatment (COAT) with ApneaGuard Oral appliance therapy (OAT)

Oral appliance therapy is delivered via an oral device that is prescribed by a sleep physician and fitted by a dentist so that it can be comfortably worn during sleep. The device treats Obstructive Sleep Apnea by moving the lower jaw slightly forward, keeping the airway open. Learn more about our Oral Appliance Therapy, ApneaGuard with SomnoMed.

What’s Next?

If you or a loved one have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or display a combination of the symptoms, treatment is essential. Speak to your physician. If you have already been diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), consider using ApneaGuard with SomnoMed Continuous Open Airway Therapy (COAT).