Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder marked by interruptions and pauses in breathing during sleep that is caused by the physical obstruction of the airway. This limits or blocks the ability for air to flow into the lungs. As the person continues to try and breathe, the airway constricts no matter how hard they try to keep breathing. Once this happens, the person will change the position of their tongue and jaw so that the airway is now open. This usually is followed by the person gasping or snorting. This cycle happens continually all night long, not allowing the person to get a restful night’s sleep. People who suffer from this condition actually stop breathing for up to two minutes at a time and most people who have it are not even aware that they do. More importantly, untreated sleep apnea can contribute to several serious health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, liver problems, and in some severe cases, even death.
The effects of this are harmful. When the airways constrict, the brain “awakens” the person so that they are sleeping more lightly. Spurts of gasping and snorting can repeat hundreds of times throughout the night, disrupting sleep all around.
Common signs of sleep apnea include:
Extreme drowsiness during the day
Frequent urinating at night
Personality changes and irritability
Nighttime grinding or clenching of teeth
Difficulty staying asleep
Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
Falling asleep during daytime activities
Awakening with a dry or sore throat
Frequent morning headaches
Presence of Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux Disease (GERD)
DID YOU KNOW?
25% of men in the U.S. are estimated to suffer from some form of Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is linked to obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart failure
For those who suffer from this condition, it is near impossible to go through the full cycle of a restful sleep. There are four stages of sleep, and each one is necessary to achieve a full night’s rest and to allow the body and brain to perform the reparative processes that happen while we sleep.
The four stages of the sleep cycle are:
Transition – about 5% of the total cycle.
Light – about 45% of the cycle.
Deep – about 25% of the cycle. This is when the body heals itself and many important reparative functions occur. People who don’t enter the deep cycle will be tired the next day.
REM – Rapid Eye Movement – about 25% of the cycle. This is when most memorable dreams occur. People who don’t complete a full REM cycle tend to complain that they are tired and find it difficult to concentrate.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Your quality of life can be affected greatly by the quality of the sleep you get. Fortunately, help for those suffering with a lack of sleep is easily accessible from a sleep clinic. You can usually get sleep apnea treatment without the need for medications.
CPAP Machine Therapy
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine blows a constant stream of air into your mouth, forcing open your airway and allowing your body to get the oxygen it needs. Despite its widespread use, many people are CPAP intolerant and are unable to wear the mask at night due to how invasive and uncomfortable it can be.
A mandibular advancement device is one such oral appliance used in the treatment of sleep apnea. They are worn in the mouth overnight and look like sports mouth guards. Their purpose is to ease the lower jaw forwards with the use of metal hinges to make breathing easier.
Another is a tongue retaining device, which acts as a kind of splint to keep the tongue in place and open the airways.
Rarely is surgery used to treat OSA. But if needed, nasal surgery may help a patient’s ability to use a CPAP. There is also the option of having a bimaxillary advancement performed. When all else fails, the last option is having a Tracheostomy performed – when a surgeon makes an opening in the front of the neck and inserts a tube into the windpipe to help patients breathe.
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