woman sleeping in bed

Understanding and Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Sleep disorders can decrease a person’s chances when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, putting men and women’s quality of life at risk. Some sleep disorders are hereditary, while others are brought on by lifestyle choices and outside factors. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that can be harmful—even deadly—if it is left untreated by a medical doctor.

Objective Sleep Apnea Vs. Central Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a man or woman experiences breathing interruptions while sleeping. These breathing interruptions could be minor, in which a person stops breathing only a handful of times, or very severe—like when a person stops breathing hundreds of times. During a sleep apnea episode, an individual’s brain and body get a decreased supply of oxygen, which can be detrimental to their overall health. Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea are the two types of sleep apnea that a person can be diagnosed with. Objective sleep apnea is the more common of the two, brought on by an airway blockage that typically comes from soft tissue in the throat that collapses during sleep. During central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked; however, the brain still cannot signal the muscles to breathe.

Those at Risk for Sleep Apnea

For those wondering whether or not they have sleep apnea, it may help to understand some of the factors that put an individual at risk for developing the sleep disorder. Sleep apnea does not discriminate, as the serious disorder can affect males, females, adults and children alike. Those who are at greater risk for sleep apnea include, males, overweight individuals, anyone over the age of 40, those who have gastroesophageal reflux, those with a nasal obstruction, people with larger tonsils or a large tongue and those who have a larger neck. Individuals who have a family history of sleep apnea are also at an increase risk of developing it.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Both types of sleep apnea disrupt sleep and lower blood oxygen levels severely. However, there are also a wide range of symptoms that can reveal to a person whether or not they have sleep apnea. Those who have sleep apnea may wake up throughout the night with a very sore or dry throat, experience a lack of energy throughout the day, wake up choking or gasping throughout the night, snore loudly, become sleepy while driving, have recurrent awakening or insomnia, get headaches in the morning or become forgetful during the day. People with sleep apnea might also experience a mood change or have a decreased interest in sex.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea  

While it’s always helpful to define sleep apnea and gain a better understanding of the symptoms one might experience, it is crucial for individuals to see a medical doctor that can perform one or more diagnostic test to confirm whether or not they actually do have sleep apnea. A sleep study can be performed at a sleep disorder center, or in the comfort of a patient’s home. This multi-part test must be electronically transmitted; recording specific activities while a person sleeps. A sleep specialist who will then determine whether or not the person has sleep apnea analyzes the records. An electromyogram (EMG), an electro-oculogram (EOG), an electrocardiogram (ECG), a nasal airflow sensor and a snore microphone can also be used to diagnose sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Fortunately, it is possible to treat sleep apnea. A nasal CPAP machine is typically used as a first attempt at treatment, as it delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask. Surgically speaking, an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) procedure may be used as treatment, which is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat. A similar procedure is sometimes needed—called a laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)—which uses the assistance of a laser. A radio-frequency probe may also be utilized to tighten the soft palate. When it comes to more severe sleep apnea treatment, the bones of the upper and lower jaw may be repositioned to increase the size of the airway in a procedure known as orthognathic surgery.

Seek Out Sleep Apnea Treatments Near You    

If you are looking for sleep apnea treatments near you and you reside in the Lehigh Valley, contact St. Luke’s OMS—the most reliable center for oral surgery—by calling 610-865-8077.