What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disruption that can have serious health consequences. It causes your breathing to periodically stop while you’re sleeping. This is related to the relaxation of the muscles in your throat. When you stop breathing, your body usually wakes up, causing you to lose out on quality sleep.
Over time, sleep apnea can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, metabolic issues, and other health problems, so it’s important to treat it. If nonsurgical treatments don’t help, you may need surgery.
The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea include:
- Loud and chronic snoring almost every night
- Choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep
- Pauses in breathing
- Waking up at night feeling short of breath, dry mouth or sore throat
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue, no matter how much time you spend in bed
- Insomnia or nighttime awakenings; restless or fitful sleep
- Going to the bathroom frequently during the night
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Uncharacteristic moodiness, irritability, or depression
- Morning headaches
Causes for sleep apnea
- Excess weight- Obesity greatly increases the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits around your upper airway can obstruct your breathing.
- Neck circumference- People with thicker necks might have narrower airways.
- A narrowed airway- You might have inherited a narrow throat. Tonsils or adenoids also can enlarge and block the airway, particularly in children.
- Family history- Having family members with sleep apnea might increase your risk.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers- These substances relax the muscles in your throat, which can worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
- Smoking- Smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
- Nasal congestion- If you have difficulty breathing through your nose — whether from an anatomical problem or allergies — you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.
The most commonly used solution for sleep apnea is
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy: This is the frontline treatment for sleep apnea. It keeps the airway open by gently providing a constant stream of positive pressure air through a mask.
Some people have trouble using CPAP and stop the treatment before achieving any lasting benefit. However, there are many measures that can be taken to make the equipment more comfortable and the adjustment period smooth. The mask and its settings can be adjusted, and adding moisture to the air as it flows through the mask can relieve nasal symptoms
There are procedures typically performed after sleep apnea has failed to respond to trial of CPAP. Types of surgery include:
- Somnoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to reduce the soft tissue in the upper airway.
- Tonsillectomy is a procedure that removes the tonsillar tissue in the back of the throat which is a common cause of obstruction in children with sleep apnea.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is a procedure that removes soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, increasing the width of the airway at the throat opening.
- Mandibular/maxillary advancement surgery is a surgical correction of certain facial abnormalities or throat obstructions that contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. This is an invasive procedure that is reserved for patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea with head-face abnormalities.
- Nasal surgery includes correction of nasal obstructions, such as a deviated septum.