Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Man and woman sleeping in a bed togetherSleep apnea is a common disorder. In fact, researchers say more than 18 million adults suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes a person’s breathing to become shallow or stop completely. This can last for 10 seconds to minutes according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Sleep apnea patients can stop breathing dozens to even hundreds of times during their sleep. This disorder can affect anyone at any age, any weight, and any gender. Unfortunately, many children or adults with obstructive sleep apnea may not realize they are struggling with the condition.

They either don’t realize they’re waking several times a night or there’s no one around to hear their loud snoring. In some cases, sleep apnea in adults and children has been misdiagnosed as depression, anxiety, and other behavioral issues. That’s why visiting a sleep apnea expert like Dental Sleep Medicine of Vancouver is so important.

WHAT IS OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that involves collapsed soft tissues in the back of the oral cavity that block the airways and prevent the flow of oxygen to the brain. In children, enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea.

While any age group can develop obstructive sleep apnea, the risk increases in middle age and plateaus around 65 years of age. However, obstructive sleep apnea has manifested itself in patients older than 65 as well. This is due mostly to weight gain, sleeping position, and a history of smoking or alcohol consumption.

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart failures such as heart attacks or irregular heartbeat, strokes, diabetes, and more. To keep issues like this from developing, it is very important to address obstructive sleep apnea as early as possible.

WHAT ARE THE THREE TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA?

African American woman sleeping peacefully in a bedPatients with sleep apnea either have obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea or both. Below is a more thorough explanation of each type.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): this is the most common form of sleep apnea. It causes your upper airway to repeatedly collapse or become blocked during sleep, reducing airflow.

Central sleep apnea (CSA): central sleep apnea is less common. With central sleep apnea, your brain temporarily stops sending signals to the muscles that control your breathing. This form of sleep apnea is commonly associated with other medical conditions.

With CSA, breathing can be normal, then speed up, then slow down before stopping. Because there is no blockage, and loud snoring isn’t a side effect, CSA is harder to detect. It can be caused by Parkinson’s Disease, strokes, heart failures, and kidney failures. Even high altitude or opioid narcotics can cause momentary CSA.

Treatments are very similar to OSA, such as losing weight, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, sleeping on your side, and even some respiratory medicines. CPAP machines and oral devices are also commonly recommended treatment options.

Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA): As the name might suggest, this is a combination of OSA and CSA. In some cases, CSA can even be brought on by certain treatments from obstructive sleep apnea.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SLEEP APNEA AND OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder used to describe patients who suffer interrupted breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea comes in two forms — obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common – 9 out of 10 patients who have sleep apnea have OSA.

OSA occurs in both males and females of all ages when the airway has been blocked or narrowed as a result of your tongue, uvula or tonsils. Relaxed throat muscles or fatty tissue can also cause this blockage.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?

Man sleeping in a bedIt’s very important to see a sleep specialist to know for sure, usually referred by your primary physician. An overnight stay is often recommended so a sleep study can be held overnight. There is also a physical exam and a review of the patient’s medical history.

A polysomnogram is the most accurate way to test for obstructive sleep apnea. This equipment will monitor the depth of sleep, rapid eye movement, blood pressure, and heart rate. All of this is designed to take note of breathing while asleep, how often sleep is interrupted, and the severity of OSA.

SLEEP APNEA SYMPTOMS

Without the proper treatment, OSA may lead to stroke, diabetes and heart disease, which is why it is important to see a sleep apnea dentist. If you are unsure about your symptoms, we are happy to offer a free 15-minute evaluation. Click below for a list of symptoms that can manifest themselves at night and during the day.

SLEEP APNEA TREATMENT

There are behavioral methods to lessen the effect of obstructive sleep apnea. Weight loss, refrain from tobacco use or alcohol, and even going through therapy to change sleeping position habits. Obstructive sleep apnea seems to be at its most “vocal” when patients sleep on their back.

The easiest ways to manage sleep apnea are to use oral appliances/night guards, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. CPAP machines can be quite clunky or uncomfortable for some patients, though. Dr. Perkins is happy to provide alternative treatment methods that do not involve a CPAP machine. These are designed to keep the airway open.

To learn more about sleep apnea, and if you have any questions or want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Blake Perkins, contact us today! In some cases, we may also ask to talk to a spouse or significant other to hear what they experience while the patient is sleeping. We look forward to hearing from you.

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