The Signs and Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If your partner is being kept awake by your snoring or your snoring is loud enough to wake you, then obstructive sleep apnea may be to blame. This condition is caused by repetitive upper airway obstruction during sleep, as a result of a narrowing of the respiratory passages. This results in disrupted sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and other medical disorders. However, sleep apnea can go unrecognized by both patients and doctors. Read on to discover the signs and symptoms of this sleep disorder and your treatment options.

The most common complaints associated with obstructive sleep apnea are loud snoring, disrupted sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients with apnea suffer from fragmented sleep and may develop cardiovascular abnormalities because of the repetitive cycles of snoring, airway collapse and waking up. Although most patients are overweight and have a short, thick neck, some are of normal weight but have a small, receding jaw. Because many patients are not aware of their heavy snoring and nocturnal arousals, this nocturnal sleep problem may remain undiagnosed.

Sleep apnea can come with other health conditions. Cardiovascular disease is common in patients. Hypertension and obesity increase the risk of cardiac disease and are frequent findings in patients with this sleep disorder. Patients with apnea who are smokers may also have coronary artery disease and obstructive airway disease.

Psychosocial problems are common in patients who have sleep apnea. These patients often have depression, mood changes, poor memory, irritability and impaired concentration. Nocturnal panic attacks have also been associated with this sleep disorder.

Sleep medicine isn't enough to treat apnea. Specialists usually recommend weight loss, and dental devices that modify the position of the tongue or jaw. Some doctors may prescribe the use of a CPAP mask. With this method, straps hold the mask firmly over the nose and the CPAP machine that generates the positive airway pressure sits on a table next to the bed. CPAP treatment is used in most patients who have sleep apnea.

Jaw surgery is the most invasive surgical procedure used to treat this malady. The surgical procedure may be limited to pulling the tongue forward. An extensive procedure may entail moving both the mandible and maxilla. Extensive jaw surgery has a higher complication rate and a longer recovery time.

Because obstructive sleep apnea disturbs your rest several times a night, you can be very sleepy during the day. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the chance of having high blood pressure and even a heart attack or stroke. Patients also run the risk of diabetes, work-related accidents and driving accidents. If you suspect that you have the condition, then consult a sleep disorder center for a sleep study. They can monitor your symptoms during sleep and prescribe a course of treatment.