WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT SLEEP APNEA
Did you know that nearly 18 million American have sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where one’s breathing stops and starts throughout the night. Potentially dangerous, sleep apnea can occur countless times throughout the night without the person being aware of it. Luckily, when sleep apnea stops one’s breathing, the brain will go into alert-mode and signal the respiratory system to start breathing again. Currently, there are three different forms of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Many times, the signs and symptoms of these forms of sleep apnea will overlap, which is why it’s essential to note any changes you have experienced in your sleep. With the help of an ENT specialist, sleep apnea can be properly treated me.
Ultimately, Sleep apnea needs to be evaluated with an overnight home sleep study, usually over 2 nights, or a polysomnogram in a sleep lab to help differentiate between snoring vs apnea. In may cases, this can be accomplished in the comfort of the patient’s own home
Weight loss, or maintaining optimal weight relative to height remains the foundation of treatment. Retaining extra body weight causes redundant tissue in the base of the tongue, which occupies space, and its weight causes further potential to collapse the airway during sleep. Nasal airway restriction due to various origins often contribute to the apnea severity as well.
Additionally, Autopap device machines can be fitted for the patient’s unique needs to mechanically assist by pushing air past the areas of mechanical narrowing or restriction during sleep. There are also multiple surgical options to be considered to mechanically open the areas of restriction for individuals who are unable to manage the apnea by less invasive means. This varies widely and is determined by the unique individual needs and anatomical variances between patients,
TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA
As stated above, there are three different forms of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common forms and typically occurs as a result of the relaxation of throat muscles. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain isn’t sending proper signals to the respiratory system and muscles that control one’s breathing. Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as mixed sleep apnea, is the combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea. Regardless of the type of sleep apnea you are afflicted with, all three of these can cause serious consequences, some of which include:
- Memory problems
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Weight gain
- Impairments (job, driving, etc.)
In addition to these examples, there are many more consequences that can arise from sleep apnea and even the lack of sleep that can be commonly associated with this sleep disorder. In fact, the American Sleep Apnea Association published a comprehensive report that looked into how much people in the US with sleep apnea actually suffer.
The American Sleep Apnea Association’s findings were based on a survey of 5,630 patients and first-person accounts that were shared at a meeting with FDA officials in June 2018 (source). Here were some of their key findings:
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue were the top two sleep apnea symptoms. Both of which cause the most severe impact on individuals.
- Barriers associated with diagnosis included the lack of awareness among the public, lack of access to ENT specialists and sleep testing facilities, stigma against the condition, financial constraints, and onerous testing procedures.
- Treatment obstacles included issues with accurate diagnosis, uncomfortable therapeutic devices, lack of insurance coverage, and other medical conditions.
In addition to their findings, ASAA created an extensive list of symptoms that are commonly associated with sleep apnea. These include:
- Morning dry mouth
- Awaking with breath-holding
- Nighttime bladder control problems
- Daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Cognitive disabilities
- Depressed mood
- Nighttime limb movement
- Nasal congestion
- Morning headaches
- Unrefreshing sleep