The most common form of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This common sleep disorder disrupts sleep by partially or fully blocking the airway when sleeping. This obstruction inhibits airflow and causes you to stop breathing throughout the night briefly. When airflow is reduced or eliminated, oxygen levels in the brain drop quickly. Individuals with OSA frequently wake up throughout the night to restart breathing. Most patients wake with a gasp as they quickly breathe in.
There is no cure for sleep apnea, but proper sleep apnea treatment can greatly minimize the symptoms, improving your sleep and overall health.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
There are many symptoms of sleep apnea, although some individuals may not recognize all of them. There are some key sleep apnea symptoms to look for, including:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Snoring that wakes your partner
- Periodically gasping for air while sleeping
- Waking up because you feel like you are suffocating or gasping for air
- Chronic morning sore throats or dry mouth
- Chronic morning headaches
- Depression, mood swings, or irritability
- Brain fog
- High blood pressure
- Low libido without other cause
- Chronic fatigue
If you have one or more of the above symptoms, contact your doctor or a sleep apnea specialist for a diagnosis. After diagnosis, Dr. Jordan can guide you through your sleep apnea treatment options and help you determine which options may be right for you.
What Happens If Sleep Apnea Goes Untreated?
Repeated cycles of disrupted sleep and decreased oxygen to the brain lead to serious side effects such as difficulty concentrating, nodding off during the day, depression, and cardiovascular problems. The risk of heart attack and stroke increases with sleep apnea. All of these can lead to serious issues and may put you in danger when operating machinery, working, or caring for your family. Although determining the right sleep apnea treatment for you may take time, it is worth the time and effort to preserve your health and improve your quality of life.
Sleep apnea can also contribute to weight gain. Individuals may gain weight due to a lack of energy, a slowed metabolism, and hormone fluctuations caused by a lack of sleep. Individuals who are seriously overweight are more prone to sleep apnea, which can cause a vicious cycle.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may have sleep apnea; they will enroll you in a sleep study to determine whether you have sleep apnea and how severe it is. While some studies require you to stay overnight in a sleep clinic, it is more common today to use specialized equipment to monitor your sleep patterns from your home.
How Can Sleep Apnea Be Treated?
There is no cure for sleep apnea, but several treatments dramatically reduce the symptoms, so you get more oxygen to the brain and restful sleep.
A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is the most popular treatment option and can be very effective. The patient wears a mask over the nose and mouth that provides air pressure while sleeping to force the airway open. Although effective, many patients do not like wearing a CPAP because it is uncomfortable and inconvenient. Some patients never adjust to wearing the mask while sleeping.
A medical-grade mouth guard worn while sleeping is an alternative for patients who cannot tolerate a CPAP machine. The mouth guard keeps the mouth slightly open, so the airway is not blocked. Some mouthguards reposition the lower jawbone for clear breathing. Others hold the tongue in place, so it does not fall back and block the airway. Dr. Jordan can examine your throat and tongue and evaluate any sleep study results to determine what type of mouth guard is best for treating your sleep apnea.
Surgery for sleep apnea is considered a last resort when all other options have failed to bring relief. There is no guarantee of success, and it is an invasive surgery. Among the surgeries considered for sleep apnea are tonsil and adenoid removal, jaw realignment, and removal of part of the soft palate.
Patients who do not or cannot wear a CPAP machine every night should consider a mouth guard or oral appliance. Contact our office at Santa Rosa Office Phone Number 707-544-2811 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jordan to evaluate your sleep apnea and learn more about your sleep apnea treatment options.