What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is when a person’s breathing stops for at least ten seconds, five times an hour. Sleep apnea has a number of dangerous, potentially fatal complications.
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Is all sleep apnea the same?

No. There are two different types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is cause by obstructions in the airway during sleep, which can be in the nasal passages, the mouth, or the throat.
Central sleep apnea is a neurological condition in which the brain fails to send signal to the muscles that control breathing, leading to the cessation of breath.
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What causes obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea has many causes. Sometimes it is caused by structural constriction of the airways, such as narrow nasal passages that become easily clogged with mucous at night. Other times, sleep apnea may occur when the muscles of the throat relax, allowing the soft tissue of the throat to sag, constricting the airway. This is more prevalent in people with malocclusion (bad bite), whose mouth does not align ideally during waking or sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea is also more common among overweight people with an excess of tissue in their throat area.
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Am I at risk for sleep apnea?

Yes. Everyone is at risk of developing sleep apnea, and an estimated 40 million Americans suffer from the condition, although more than 90% of them go undiagnosed. However, you are at higher risk for sleep apnea if:

  • You are a man
  • You are overweight
  • You snore loudly
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have floppy eyelid syndrome (FES)
  • You have a history of sleep apnea in your family.

Click here to read about the risks of sleep apnea.

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If I snore, do I have sleep apnea?

Not necessarily. About 25 % of snorers have sleep apnea, but snoring is one of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring is the sound made by turbulent airflow through constricted airways, and 70% of obstructive sleep apnea sufferers snore. If you snore, you should look out for some of the other common signs of sleep apnea:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Memory and cognitive difficulties
  • Fatigue

In addition, you should have any co-sleepers or family members report events when your snoring seems to stop abruptly, followed by a gasping for air, as this can be the sound of an apneic event.
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How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

The clinical test most commonly used for diagnosing sleep apnea is a polysomnogram. This device measures your brain activity, your breathing, and many other vital bodily functions while you sleep to determine conclusively whether you have apneic events, how frequently, and of what severity. In addition, you can aid your diagnosis by starting a sleep diary as soon as you suspect you may have apnea.

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When breathing is interrupted, how is it resumed?

When your breathing stops, the mechanisms in the body that detect a surplus of carbon dioxide and a shortage of oxygen are triggered. The brain is alerted to open the airways, bringing it to a state of partial wakefulness, often accompanied by a snort of gasp. These wakeful episodes prevent you from getting a full night’s sleep. With at least five interruptions of breath during an hour, people with sleep apnea suffer between 40 and 60 waking events a night, often during the deeper parts of sleep, preventing them from receiving necessary delta sleep or REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

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What are the effects of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea’s primary effect is a shortage of sleep, which can lead to sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and depression. In addition, the oxygen shortages can lead to a number of cardiovascular side effects.
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What sleep apnea treatments are available?

Sleep apnea has many successful avenues of treatment, depending on the exact nature of the apnea. Sometimes, behavioral modification, such as sleeping in a different position, is sufficient. Other times, oral appliance therapy, using a jaw and tongue positioned to keep the airways open during sleep, works well. Sometimes, constant positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the best treatment. Finally, surgery can sometimes permanently improve the openness of airways.
Read more about Sleep Apnea Equipment.

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Will sleep apnea treatment cure my heavy snoring?

In many cases, sleep apnea treatment, by ensuring that your airways are sufficiently open to prevent turbulent airflow in the nostrils. This is especially true of oral appliance therapy and surgery. For CPAP, although snoring may be remedied, it is often replaced with the noise and discomfort of the pumping mechanism.
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When should I seek treatment for my sleep apnea?

Because many of the effects of sleep apnea are cumulative, it is preferable if you seek treatment for sleep apnea as soon as possible.
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Sleep apnea is defined as the cessation of breathing during sleep for at least 10 seconds, and at least 5 times in an hour.
But there is help out there!

To learn more about sleep apnea symptoms, effects, diagnosis, and treatment, contact the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatment Center in Gurnee, Illinois for a free initial consultation.

Call us today at 1-8-NO-PAP-MASK