If you have trouble getting a quality night’s sleep, the problem may be sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can deprive you of the ability to breathe properly at night, causing loud snoring and other symptoms that derive from not getting enough sleep. To treat this complex disorder, the first step is to understand it, how it works, and why it takes a toll on your ability to live life to the fullest.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect You?
The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This form of sleep apnea is characterized by a blockage that is preventing air from reaching your lungs at night. This may be caused by an enlarged tongue, excess tissue, or other reasons, but ultimately, the blockage prevents breathing which causes the patient to wake up many times throughout the night. The first sign of sleep apnea is typically the loud snoring that’s associated with the disorder.
Understanding the Types of Sleep Apnea
While OSA is the most common and simplest type of sleep apnea, there are two other variations. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a disorder that produces lapses in breathing at night, but the difference is that it’s not caused by physical obstruction, but by a failure of the brain to send the appropriate signal to initiate the breath. Complex sleep apnea is another serious variation that is essentially a combination of OSA and CSA.
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
Sleep apnea is often associated with obesity, and while that is a huge risk factor, some cases have nothing to do with obesity. To get a better idea if you may have sleep apnea, consider these risk factors that are commonly associated with the disorder.
- Being a male increases the risk of sleep apnea
- Patients over 40 are at a greater risk
- A large neck can increase the risk
- Being overweight is a major risk factor
- Tonsils or tongue that is larger than normal
- A small jawbone is a risk factor
Frequently Asked Sleep Apnea Questions
What causes an obstruction in the airway?
There are various reasons for an obstructed airway. In fact, some of them may simply be out of your control. Factors such as obesity or a genetic trait such as an enlarged neck can cause an obstruction that can affect your breathing at night and result in sleep apnea episodes.
What increases the risk of OSA?
Factors that may increase the risk of sleep apnea include:
- Age– older adults are at higher risk
- Gender– men are at higher risk
- Use of tobacco
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Overweight adults
- Nasal congestion
- Neck circumference
What are the most common symptoms?
Snoring is generally the first sign people notice with sleep apnea. When there’s a blockage in a patient’s throat, the soft tissues will relax and generate loud, rambunctious snores.
Other symptoms include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Choking or gasping for air at night
- Memory loss
- Morning headaches
I snore, does that mean I have sleep apnea?
Snoring doesn’t always mean you have sleep apnea. While it is a symptom that often develops in patients with sufferers, the nuisance can occur as a result of various conditions such as your sleep position, age, the medication you’re taking, lack of sleep, or even alcohol consumption before bed.
Consulting a sleep physician about your snoring can help answer your questions or concerns and detect if you have sleep apnea. Then, you’ll be able to find proper treatments that will effectively alleviate your symptoms.
What should I do if I suspect I have sleep apnea?
If you think you or your partner is living with undiagnosed sleep apnea, getting an official diagnosis is extremely important. At our Red Bank dental office, Dr. MacFarlane works with local health professionals to conduct a sleep study and analyze the results for an accurate diagnosis.