What is Sleep Apnea?
It’s a chronic medical disorder. It causes a person to stop breathing
for periods of time during sleep.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three main types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea– Everyone’s muscles—including those in the throat—relax
during sleep. This narrows the airway. But in people with obstructive
sleep apnea, the airway narrows so much that it closes. The person keeps
trying to breathe, but air can’t get through. This is the most common
type of sleep apnea.
Central Sleep Apnea– the airway stays open. But the brain stops telling them muscles
that control breathing to work. This is the rarest type of sleep apnea.
Mixed Sleep Apnea– This type involves both a blocked airway and a brain signal problem,
For example, a person may have periods of central sleep apnea mixed with
periods of obstructive sleep apnea.
The most common signs and symptoms of sleep apneas include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing during sleep witnessed by another person
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely
indicates central sleep apnea
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood disorders (depression)
When To See A Doctor
Consult a medical professional if you experience, or if your partner notices,
- Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself
- Shortness of breath that awakens you from sleep
- Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while
you're working, watching television or even driving
Ask your doctor about any sleep problem that leaves you chronically fatigued,
sleepy and irritable. Excessive daytime drowsiness (hypersomnia) may be
due to other disorders, such as narcolepsy.
Anyone Can Have Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can affect anyone. Even children can have sleep apnea. But
certain factors put you at increased risk:
- Excess weight
- Neck circumference
- A narrow airway
- Being male
- Being older
- Family history
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers
- Nasal congestion
- Heart disorders
- Stroke or brain tumor
» Take This Sleep Quiz To See If You Might Have Sleep Apnea
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Your doctor may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms or
may refer you to a sleep disorder center, like the
Torrance Memorial Sleep Disorder Center. There, a sleep specialist can help you decide on your need for further
evaluation. Such an evaluation often involves overnight monitoring of
your breathing and other body functions during sleep. Another option is
home sleep testing, it's often easier for you and less expensive.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may refer you to an ear,
nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) to rule out any blockage in
your nose or throat. An evaluation by a heart doctor (cardiologist) or
a doctor who specializes in the nervous system (neurologist) may be necessary
to look for causes of central sleep apnea.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend only lifestyle
changes, such as: avoid sleeping on your back, lose weight, quit smoking
or avoid drugs that cause drowsiness.
If these measures don't improve your signs and symptoms or if your
apnea is moderate to severe, a number of other treatments are available.
Certain devices can help open up a blocked airway, like a continuous positive
airway pressure (CPAP). In other cases, oral appliance, surgery may be
necessary or medication.
You Can Sleep Better!
Talk to your health care provider if you think you many have a sleep disorder
like sleep apnea. If you have additional questions or need information
please call Torrance Memorial Sleep Disorders Center to assist you, 310-517-4617.