Sleep Apnea Disorder Symptoms and Treatment

Many people believe that sleep apnea disorder is simply another form of snoring. However, while it is true that sleep apnea and snoring can both interfere with the quality and quantity of sleep, this condition is a much more serious sleep disorder. Snoring simply involves the sound a person makes while sleeping. Sleep apnea disorder refers to an actual obstruction of breathing during sleep.

An individual suffering from sleep apnea will stop breathing for up to ten seconds, sometimes up to thirty or more times an hour. During these episodes, the person will briefly wake up in order to regain breathing. With that many sleep interruptions during the course of one night, sleep apnea can cause an individual considerable sleep deprivation!

Sleep apnea: Mayo Clinic Radio

Sleep Apnea Disorder Symptoms

Surprisingly, many people do not know they suffer from sleep apnea. Many times, sleeping partners who observe the individual’s stop and start breathing patterns will alert them of their sleep apnea. Sometimes, it is the accumulated sleep deficit that alerts an individual that something is disrupting their sleep. If you find yourself suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness, or if you wake each morning with a strong headache, you should consult with your doctor.

Sleep apnoea can occur in all types of people, both young and old, although it appears to occur more often in men. Factors which may raise your chances of suffering from sleep apnea can include, weight, blood pressure, and nose and throat infections or obstructions. Individuals who are overweight or suffer from high blood pressure are more vulnerable to suffer from sleep apnea. Other factors that may contribute to the onset of sleep apnea include excessive alcohol consumption and the use of sleeping pills.

Children are also vulnerable to sleep apnea disorder. Children who snore excessively or experience restless sleep may be suffering from sleep apnea. Many times, enlarged tonsils or adenoids cause a child’s sleep apnea.

If you suffer from sleep apnea, the first thing you should do is find out what type of sleep apnea you are suffering from. There are two distinct types of sleep apnea –

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Central Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Disorder

Obstructive sleep apnea refers to the type of sleep apnea in which the tongue and the throat muscles relax during the course of sleep. When the tongue and throat relax, they block part of the mouth’s airway, causing a choking noise that can result from lack of airflow, which in turn usually rouses the individual from sleep. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids may also cause obstructive sleep apnea in an individual.

Central Sleep Apnea

Although the less common form of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is caused when the brain fails to send the frequent signals to the mouth that control regular breathing. Your doctor may need to conduct a sleep observation to determine which type of sleep apnea, if any, you suffer from.

Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Disorder Treatment

If it is concluded that you suffer from sleep apnea, most treatments begin with initiating lifestyle changes. People with sleep apnea are encouraged to follow a weight loss program, eat a healthy diet, reduce their alcohol intake, and cease taking sleeping pills.

If you tend to sleep on your back, your doctor may advise you to change sleeping positions to encourage normal nighttime breathing. Special position changing tools may be recommended to help you change your sleeping position.

If changing lifestyle factors or sleeping positions does not work, a special continuous positive airway pressure known as CPAP may be used. A CPAP device is a mask that the individual wears over his or her face at night. The CPAP forces air into the individual’s airway.

Other options include surgery to remove tissue blockage, or enlarge tonsils or adenoids. If an individual’s sleep apnea disorder does not respond to conventional treatment, a special surgery known as a tracheotomy may be performed. In a tracheotomy, a small hole is cut into the windpipe. The hole is left closed until night, where it can be opened to allow air to enter the individual’s airway without obstruction.