Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which people frequently stop breathing while sleeping. This causes loud snoring, which decreases oxygen intake.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common form of the disorder. OSA is caused by structures in the throat blocking air flow in and out of the lungs during sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, if Sleep Apnea is left untreated, it may contribute to several chronic medical conditions, including heart disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Most people suffering from Sleep Apnea are often the last to know. It is often a family member or bed partner who is disturbed by the loud snoring, and notices the number of times the sufferer stops breathing while asleep.
Individuals with Sleep Apnea may also experience some or all of the following symptoms:
· Excessive sleeping during the day
· Decreased work performance
· Irritability or short temper
· Mood or behavior changes
· Falling asleep while driving
· Loss of energy
· Trouble concentrating
· Depression and Anxiety
· Restless sleep
Medical treatment involves weight loss if the patient is overweight, avoidance of drugs, which increase the risk of apneas such as sleeping pills, alcohol and sedative medicines, and sometimes sleeping semi-upright. However, in most cases additional treatment is warranted.
In some cases we use Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) to treat patients. For this treatment a mask is fit over the nose or over the nose and mouth. The mask is pressurized slightly to keep the airway open and allow the patient to sleep normally. Newer technology has made the masks relatively comfortable to use.
Some patients may be candidates for surgery on the upper airway. In the usual upper airway surgery the uvula (the tissue at the back of the throat) and some of the surrounding soft tissue is removed to enlarge the air passage. In other cases a dental device designed to move the lower jaw down and outwards slightly may be worn at night.
Other sleep disorders
Central Sleep Apnea is a condition where people repeatedly stop breathing during sleep because the brain temporarily stops communicating with the muscles that control breathing.
Narcolepsy may occur when the brain loses its ability to properly regulate waking and sleeping cycles. Symptoms include excessive daytime drowsiness or suddenly falling asleep.
Insomnia is a lack of ability to sleep because of anxiety, pain, medications or other causes.
Fibromyalgia is a medical syndrome where the patient experiences widespread pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints. This causes sufferers to lose sleep, which in turn creates more pain.
For a full listing of sleep disorders, visit the National Sleep Foundation website.