Sleep Apnea

“Apnea” is a Greek word meaning “without breath”, and Sleep Apnea is a disorder where breathing ceases for 10 seconds or longer. This disruptive pattern is repeated throughout the night. In Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the throat muscles relax while asleep, closing a person’s airway and ability to breathe. This is the most common form of sleep apnea.  Another form, known as Central Sleep Apnea, occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signal to the muscles that control breathing. Some people have a combination of Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 12 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea and another 10 million are undiagnosed.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea may include:

• Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness)

• Loud snoring (in Obstructive Sleep Apnea)

• Observed episodes of breathing cessation while asleep

• Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat

• Morning headaches

• Insomnia

 

 

Types of Sleep Apnea

 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Muscles at the back of the throat that support the soft palate, tongue and tonsils relax while asleep. The airway becomes narrow or closed, causing the breath to stop. Your brain senses the helplessness of the situation and wakes you up to you can re-open your airway. This is usually brief and you may not even be aware what has taken place.

 

Central Sleep Apnea:

 This is much less common and occurs when the brain fails to send a signal to the breathing muscles, telling them to breathe. This can happen to anyone but is more common among those with heart disease.

 

If you think you may be suffering from insomnia or a related sleep disorder, see your doctor for advice on treatment. You may be referred to a sleep center for special testing and diagnostics.

 

 

Facts about Sleep Apnea

• It is more likely to occur in men than in women

• Smoking and alcohol increase the risk of sleep apnea

• The typical sleep apnea patient is often overweight, male, and over age 40. However, it can affect both men and women of ideal weight at any age.

• A neck circumference of over 17 inches is associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

• It occurs 2-3 times more often in adults over 65.

• It is more common among those with high blood pressure

 

 

 

Treatment

Not everyone that snores has sleep apnea and not everyone that has sleep apnea snores. If you are awakened by shortness of breath or have been told by your partner that you stop breathing during the night, it’s urgent that you see a physician so they can refer you to a local Sleep Center for an evaluation.

A nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea. This device includes a mask or nosepiece that is connected to a machine by a hose. It supplies a constant, steady stream of pressurized air that keeps your airways open for breathing. There are many varieties of masks in different sizes so ask your doctor or supplier to show you how to find one with the best fit. While it may take getting used to, a CPAP machine can have a positive and noticeable effect on the quality of sleep you experience and how much more rested you feel during the day.