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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that could be even dangerous in some cases, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, which can happen up to even hundreds of times. It also means that the brain, as well as the body, doesn’t get enough oxygen. The problem with this disorder is that some people may not even be aware of the fact they suffer from it, allowing it to cause serious health problems other than disrupting your sleep, which studies have shown how important it really is.
Getting to Know the Types
There are three types of sleep apnea, including:
- Obstructive sleep apnea—it's the most common form of all three, occurring when throat muscles relax. More precisely, there is a blockage of the airway, caused by the soft tissue of the throat collapsing in sleep.
- Central sleep apnea—happens when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing, as there is some instability in the respiratory control center of the brain.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome—some also call it treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. It occurs when a person is suffering from both types of the disorder previously mentioned.
How can you know if you suffer from sleep apnea?
As the signs and symptoms of this disorder can overlap sometimes, it could be difficult to conclude if it really is sleep apnea. The symptoms can be numerous, including:
- loud snoring
- restless sleep often interrupted
- waking up occasionally, along with a gasping or even choking sensation
- sore and dry throat after waking up
- morning headaches
- tiredness, even though you had your 8-hours sleep
- lack of energy
- mood changes
Of course, when you get older, it is natural to be in need for additional tips to fall asleep, but you shouldn't dismiss this disorder at the very beginning.
What could happen if sleep apnea isn't treated?
In case you are not aware that you suffer from this disorder or you choose not to do anything about it, here are the numerous health problems that can arise from not treating sleep apnea:
- high blood pressure
- irregular heartbeats, heart failure
As an accompanying consequence, you can also notice a decrease in effective performance during the day, whether it is work or school, as well as academic underachievement when it comes to children and adolescents.
What can be done?
When it comes to treatments for sleep apnea, they can vary depending on the lifestyle of the patient, including losing weight, sleeping in a different position, CPAP therapy, or even surgery.
1. Home Treatment
As an option, in the beginning, you can try all of any of these options and see if they make any difference:
- lose weight
- avoid the use of alcohol, sleeping pills, and smoking
- change your sleeping position and avoid sleeping on your back
2. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
CPAP is a treatment in which the patient wears a mask over the nose and/or mouth while sleeping. The mask provides the patient with a constant flow of air, which keeps the airways open and prevents breathing from interrupting. It is the most common treatment, but there is also BPAP, where the airflow changes when the patient breathes in, and then out.
3. Dental Devices
These devices are made to keep the airway open while the patient is sleeping. They are specifically designed by dentists who possess special expertise in treating sleep apnea.
The most common surgeries performed to deal with sleep apnea are:
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) - the removal of the soft tissue on the back of the throat, which increases the width of the airway.
- Mandibular maxillomandibular advancement surgery - correction of specific facial problems or throat obstructions that cause the disorder.
- Rhinoplasty - correcting nasal problems, for example, a deviated septum. It should be noted that functional rhinoplasty effectively removes a nasal blockage and it helps only patients with that problem.
Many people don't believe that snoring can be a sign of a serious, if not even dangerous condition. What's more, not every person who has sleep apnea snores while sleeping, so it is recommended to be extra careful when paying attention to the symptoms. If you feel sleepy during the day, maybe sleep apnea will be excluded from the diagnosis, but it could also be narcolepsy. Bottom line, if you notice any of the symptoms stated, be sure to consult your doctor so that a proper diagnosis could be timely set.