What Is Sleep Apnea?

What Is Sleep Apnea?

by Kassandra Silva (SU)

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is fairly common, yet it can be potentially dangerous. An individual with sleep apnea stops breathing for a number of seconds, then suddenly gasps for air during their sleep. This can happen dozens of times per hour during sleep.

However, most people sleep through it and do not remember having any problems during sleep. Most people with sleep apnea therefore do not realize they have it until someone in their household tells them about the sleep issues, such as loud snoring and stops in breathing during the night.

Let’s talk about the types of sleep apnea, symptoms of the condition, and where you can go for an evaluation and treatment to help you get a good night’s sleep every night.

Is Sleep Apnea the Same for Everyone?

There are actually three main types of sleep apnea:

●      Central sleep apnea is due to neurological causes, as the brain doesn’t communicate consistently with the muscles that control breathing.

●      Obstructive sleep apnea is due to an obstructed airflow caused by excess tissue in the mouth and/or throat. This is the most common form of the condition.

●      Complex sleep apnea syndrome occurs when an individual experiences both central and obstructive sleep apnea.

The signs and symptoms of sleep apnea can include one or more of the following:

●      Loud snoring (as observed by others)

●      Gasping or choking during sleep

●      Difficulty staying asleep

●      Excessive daytime sleepiness

●      Irritability and mood swings

●      Difficulty in focusing

●      Dry mouth

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea tends to occur due to an individual’s physical build and/or due to underlying medical conditions. It happens most frequently when a patient has obstructions in the airway – in particular, when the tiny muscles at the back of the throat relax and do not create a clear pathway for breathing.

What Puts Me at Risk of Sleep Apnea?

You may have a greater propensity for developing sleep apnea due to one or more of the following factors:

●      Physical build (e.g., having a large neck, large tonsils, or a narrow throat)

●      High blood pressure

●      Obesity

●      Having family members with the same condition

●      Sleeping on your back

●      Consuming alcohol

Can I Ignore Sleep Apnea? 

Because sleep apnea causes an intermittent lack of oxygen getting into your body when you stop breathing, it can eventually lead to quite dire health consequences. That is why it is so important to talk to a doctor about treatment that would work for you, so you can breathe normally while you sleep.

How Can It Be Treated?

There are various treatments available for sleep apnea. Depending on your condition and your preferences, you may choose one or a combination of treatments:

●      Adopting a healthy lifestyle can be especially helpful for mild sleep apnea. Some changes you can make include the following:

§  Attain or maintain a healthy weight – This can help to decrease tissue bulkiness in the back of the throat, helping you to breathe better.

§  Sleep on your side – Compared to sleeping on your back, this can help you breathe more easily by preventing tissues from falling back and blocking the airways. 

§  Elevate the head of your bed – You can also use thicker pillows to keep your head elevated.

§  Limit your intake of alcohol and sedatives – Alcohol and sleeping pills may cause muscles in the throat area to relax. Try to limit or avoid these in order to decrease obstruction in the airways.

§  Stop smoking – Smoking can cause nasal congestion, which heightens sleep disorders, including snoring and sleep apnea.

●      Using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which gently pumps air through a mask that you wear over your mouth or nose while you sleep. It helps you to breathe better, have quality sleep, and reduce problems linked to sleep apnea.

●      Surgery or other office-based procedures – there are several medical procedures that doctors can perform to treat sleep apnea, including turbinate reduction, radiofrequency tongue base reduction, and pillar implants. These procedures can help alleviate nasal congestion and open up the airway.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea in Austin, TX

Here at Snoring Austin, our experienced sleep doctors are here to help you with your sleep apnea and snoring problems by diagnosing the precise cause and recommending the best treatment. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, contact our caring staff today by calling our Austin office at (512) 270-3602 or our Lakeway office at (512) 982-9524. You may also fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to helping you get a good night’s sleep every night!