What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common disorder which may cause you to stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. This causes your heart and blood vessels to work harder. Apnea can be mild to severe based on the number of times you stop breathing each hour. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur from five to 40 or more times each hour.
Sleep apnea is a chronic (ongoing) condition. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common category of sleep disordered breathing. This usually means you have blocked or narrowed airways in your mouth or throat. Your airway can become blocked when your throat muscles and tongue relax while you sleep.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- difficulty concentrating due to fatigue
- wake in the morning unrested
- morning headaches
- restless sleep
- wake up gasping for air
- low energy
It is estimated that over 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. However, only about 12 million cases have been diagnosed. Left untreated, OSA can contribute to serious health problems such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart failure
- heart arrhythmias
- memory loss
Because sleep apnea seriously disrupts sleep quality for you as well as your partner, you may be very tired during the day. This may make you more likely to:
- be in a car accident
- have difficulty concentrating or have memory problems
- perform poorly at school or work.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
The Sleep Apnea and Snoring Center offers both non-surgical and surgical treatment options for OSA. Sleep apnea treatments may range from a simple change in your sleep positions to surgery to correct facial or throat abnormalities. Depending on your preferences and the severity of your sleep apnea, one or a combination of the following procedures may be prescribed:
- continuous positive airway pressure mask (CPAP) – a breathing device that prevents your airway from closing while you sleep
- oral appliances to keep your airway open while sleeping
- Pillar® Implants that stiffen the soft palate
- correction of deviated septum and other nasal obstructions
- correction of obstructions of the throat and neck
- soft tissue surgery to remove enlarged tonsils, shorten the soft palate (called Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP) or decrease tongue size (partial glossectomy)
- radio frequency treatment (radiofrequency tissue ablation or RFTA) or Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS) to shrink the back of the tongue or palate
- advance the jaw or chin bones to correct facial or throat abnormalities
Where to go from here?Next Topic: Snoring
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