What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that occurs when breathing is affected while sleeping. When breathing stops and starts during sleep, it can be dangerous. There are a few different kinds of sleep apnea—the most common are obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common kind—this occurs when the muscles in the throat relax. This includes the uvula, the tonsils, and the side walls of the throat and tongue. When these muscles relax, airways narrow or sometimes close altogether, making it difficult to breathe. Your brain will usually wake you up to reopen your airways when this happens.
Central sleep apnea happens when your brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles needed for breathing. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?
There are a few signs of sleep apnea, but the most common is loud snoring. Because of the breathing difficulty that occurs, snorts, gasps, and loud snoring are common among those with sleep apnea. Other signs include not feeling rested after a full night’s sleep, having trouble focusing while awake, feeling excessive sleepiness during the day, and general irritability. Those with sleep apnea may also experience difficulty sleeping, waking up with a headache or a dry mouth in the morning. You may also have an episode of difficulty breathing during the night without waking up—this would have to be determined by another person who witnessed you sleeping.
How Do I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?
There are certain factors that will increase your risk of sleep apnea. Some of these factors are in your control, while others are not. Some unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and use of narcotic pain medication and opioid medications. Other things that increase your risk of sleep apnea include age—the older you are the higher your risk, gender—sleep apnea is much more common in men than women, nasal congestion, medical family history, and heart disorders. Your neck circumference also makes a difference—thicker necks tend to have narrower airways.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
The most common treatment option for sleep apnea is wearing a CPAP mask during sleep. CPAP therapy can be effective, but if you don’t want to wear a mask at night, you may want to look into other options. Certain oral and dental appliances can help to open airways. There are also surgical options. Surgery in the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, adenoids, tongue, upper and lower jaw, can impact sleep apnea as it can help to reduce or eliminate any extra tissue that is blocking your airways.
Losing weight can also treat sleep apnea. Though if your sleep apnea is caused by narrow nasal passages or airways, this will not be effective.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, come see us at Oral and Facial Surgery of Utah.