Sleep apnea can be a mild or seriously distressing condition marked by disturbances in your ability to achieve restful, restorative sleep. Many know sleep apnea as a medical name for snoring, which adds to its reputation as a mild, unconcerned condition. However, excessive snoring is a sign of potential airway disturbances that can be one sign of episodes in which sleepers stop breathing periodically while asleep.
The potential dangers of a poor night’s sleep are not widely considered by the public. However, problems with mood and irritability, inability to concentrate, and fatigue throughout the day are only the most obvious effects of sleep apnea. Persons with improper amounts of sleep are also at risk of weight gain, depression, and diabetes.
There are three types of sleep apnea, which include obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is a combination of the two.
Obstructive sleep apnea
This is the more common variety of sleep apnea. It occurs when your throat muscles relax during sleep, which leads to snoring. However, an excessive amount of snoring can block airways and should be discussed with your physician.
Central sleep apnea
This type of sleep apnea is caused by a disruption of the signals that go from your brain to the muscles that control involuntary breathing. A long disruption of breathing has serious consequences.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome
This type of sleep apnea is caused by a combination of the first two on the list.
Symptoms of each type of sleep apnea are the same. These include:
- Gasping for air while you are asleep
- Lack of concentration
- Mood swings, most commonly irritability
- Fatigue through the day
- Stopping breathing while you sleep. This can occur in short episodes that the sleeper does not notice. It can be observed, however, by someone else.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms make an appointment with a primary care physician or bring this up at your next appointment. Sleep apnea is diagnosed by wearing a monitor that records your breathing during sleep.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
After diagnosis, if your sleep apnea is moderate to severe, there are several steps you can take. Some of these include lifestyle changes. Helpful lifestyle changes include:
- Losing weight
- Reducing or eliminating the use of alcohol, tobacco products or illicit drugs
- Refraining from drinking beverages that contain caffeine after a certain hour
- Wearing a mask at night that provides continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
Surgery is also an option that can be considered, generally after less invasive treatment options have proven ineffective. The surgical options include:
- Tissue removal
Surgeons will remove tissue from the back of your mouth and the top of your throat in a procedure known as a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty.
- Tissue shrinkage
Tissue shrinkage is done with a technique called radiofrequency energy ablation.
- Jaw repositioning
This procedure is called maxillomandibular advancement. The fundamentals of this surgery are to move your jaw forward, which creates a larger opening where obstructions occur.
Weight control surgery (bariatric surgery) and surgery to remove adenoids (tonsils) are also used as a treatment for sleep apnea.
If you are feeling fatigued regularly, this could be caused by sleep apnea. In San Diego, dial 619-461-5663 to schedule a checkup and discuss this with your physician.