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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by the cessation or obstruction of air flow during sleep. This results in a partial or complete awakening from sleep. These repetitive interruptions in breathing cause ineffective sleep that affects many aspects of a person's health and lifestyle. A person with sleep apnea may not realize that they are continually waking up during the night, yet they suffer from the effects of lack of sleep.
A sleep study, or polysomnography, is a painless procedure that enables the doctors to determine if a patient is suffering from sleep apnea, and which treatment is most suitable. The study is covered by most insurance companies, and is the first step in treating sleep apnea.
Your sleep is meant to restore your energy so you can be alert and effective during the day. However, if you fail to get proper sleep you may experience daytime sleepiness such as: a strong urge to take naps, falling asleep during meetings, fighting to stay awake on your drive home from work; this can severely impact your ability to function during the day. Finding the cause of your daytime sleepiness is the first step toward improving your condition. A sleep study will help you accomplish this!
Once you arrive at the sleep lab, you will be shown to your private room and asked to change into your bed clothes. The technician will then spend about 20 minutes attaching leads (wires) to your head, face, chest and legs. (This is absolutely painless and un-invasive) These leads will then be connected to a monitoring box (head box). The leads will have a sufficient amount of slack so that you are not restricted in movement while you sleep.After the leads are in place the technician will leave to an adjacent room to monitor your sleep. All that is left for you to do is relax and fall asleep. During the study you will be able to call on the technician if you need to use the restroom or have any other questions.
Sometimes your study may involve the use of a Cpap mask (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). The CPAP mask provides a gentle and constant flow of air into your nose and mouth. This constant flow of air keeps your airway open and prevents cessation of breathing during sleep. The technician will adjust the CPAP mask so that it fits you properly. Many people report that after using a CPAP mask they wake up feeling refreshed, alert and well rested.
The main difference between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea is the cause of the breathing problem. In obstructive sleep apnea, the cause is the collapse of the upper airway, which blocks the throat and stops the air supply. In central sleep apnea, the interruption of breathing is caused by a problem in the center of the brainstem that controls breathing. As the name implies, mixed apnea is a combination of both. Here is a brief explanation on each type:
Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repeated cessation of airflow during sleep due to obstruction or collapse of the upper airway (throat). This event is usually accompanied by a reduction in the level of oxygen in the blood, leading to an abrupt awakening to breathe. This is called an apnea event. These repetitive interruptions in breathing cause ineffective sleep that affects many aspects of a person's health and lifestyle. A person with OSA may not realize that they are continually waking up during the night, yet they suffer from the effects of lack of sleep.
To understand this process and feeling, imagine yourself snorkeling. If someone were to put a hand on the top of his snorkel to block the air intake (similar to a collapsing airway), he would not be able to breathe, in response he would probably lift his head out of the water to breathe. In the same way, when a person suffering from obstructive sleep apnea has a collapse of his airway, he needs to wake up from sleep to breathe.
Central sleep apnea is a neurological condition that can be attributed to multiple causes. CSA is characterized by the cessation of respiratory effort during sleep, which is usually accompanied by a decrease in the level of oxygen in the blood. In central sleep apnea, the center of the brainstem that controls breathing shuts down and there is no respiratory effort. The person is awakened from sleep by an automatic respiratory reflex.
Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Generally, the core component of apnea becomes less of a problem when obstructive sleep apnea is treated.
Many people suffer from sleep apnea and don't even know it. In many cases, the spouse or bed partner can recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea and help their loved one find treatment.
These are the main symptoms of sleep apnea:
• Loud snoring.
• Cessation of breathing during sleep.
• Sudden awakenings due to shortness of breath.
• Dry mouth upon waking.
• Sore throat when waking up.
• morning headaches.
• Drowsiness during the day.
• High blood pressure.
• Personality change.
• Sleep without rest.
• Gasping and choking during sleep.
• Confusion upon waking.
If you or someone you know exhibits some or most of these symptoms, there is a strong chance that sleep apnea is the reason. To seek help, you must be seen by a sleep specialist and scheduled for a sleep study. It is important for you to know that most symptoms of sleep apnea can be treated and cured.
The first thing to do is take the sleep apnea self-test. If the result shows that you might have sleep apnea, you should see a sleep specialist and make an appointment for a sleep study. A sleep study, known as a polysomnogram, is a painless, overnight study that is usually performed in a sleep laboratory.
• Brain wave patterns (EEG)
• Muscle tension
• Eye movement
• Blood oxygen level
• Audio monitoring
• EKG (cardiac monitoring)
• Chest wall movements
There are a variety of treatments available for sleep apnea. Appropriate treatment is determined by a person's medical history, the severity of their disorder, and the type of sleep apnea they have. A sleep study is an excellent place to start when it comes to determining which treatment is best for each individual.
Most treatments begin with lifestyle changes, such as: losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and stopping any medications that relax the muscles of the upper respiratory tract. Some people are helped by special devices or pillows that prevent them from sleeping in certain positions that make it easier to close their airways. Oral appliances can also be used to ensure that the airways remain open during sleep. If these methods do not offer sufficient improvement to the patient's condition, doctors often recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. This treatment uses a mask to provide a flow of pressurized air to the airways, keeping them open so the user can breathe. There are also surgical procedures that can be used to remove tissue and widen the airways. Sometimes one of these methods is enough. Other times, people may need a combination of these methods to cure sleep apnea.
Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea: non-surgical
Non-surgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea include:
• Behavior changes.
• CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) treatment.
• Dental appliances.
Behavioral changes to reduce or eliminate sleep apnea.
Behavioral changes are the easiest way to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea. In these cases, one or more of the following behaviors can reduce the patient's apnea.
Sleep apnea is often related to weight. Excess fat around the neck area makes the airways narrow, increasing the likelihood of blockages. For overweight people with mild sleep apnea, weight loss may be an effective treatment. It can also reduce the severity of sleep apnea. An important point to keep in mind is that losing weight can be very difficult for people with sleep apnea because they may feel too tired to exercise during the day. Weight loss also becomes difficult for people with sleep apnea because they use food as a means of staying awake. Additionally, weight loss is a gradual process that can take a long time before significant changes occur. Therefore, a combination of treatments can help reduce or eliminate sleep apnea in a shorter period of time.
Avoid alcohol and certain medications:
Drinking alcohol or taking sleeping pills and other pain relievers can relax your throat muscles and block your airways. They can also make the brain more "sleepy" and difficult to wake up when there is a lack of oxygen in the body (which is the natural response). This can cause more severe pauses in breathing.
Sleeping on your side:
Sleep apnea can be made worse if you sleep on your back. While in this position, the tongue is more likely to roll back and block the airway. This position also allows the airway muscles to collapse and block the airway. Therefore, sleeping on your side can help reduce the amount of apneas (cessation of breathing).
It is very important to understand that sleep apnea can occur at any age and affect both genders. Sleep apnea is thought to affect 4% of the male and 3% of the female population. Many people that have sleep apnea are misdiagnosed as simply having a snoring or sleeping problem. There are some people who are at much higher risk than others. Below is a list of risk factors that increase the likelihood of having sleep apnea:
Sleep apnea's interference with the sleeping process can significantly effect both day-time and night-time quality of life. Untreated sleep apnea can be potentially life-threatening. Here are some of the complications associated with sleep apnea:
Sleep apnea can cause serious problems if it goes untreated. Your risk of heart disease and stroke is higher if severe sleep apnea is not treated. You are also more likely to have traffic accidents if you drive while you're sleepy. If you have sleep apnea, it is very important for you to seek treatment. Actually, sleep apnea may already have affected you more than you know. It is almost certain that things will improve for you once the diagnosis is made and you begin your treatment. Remember that you are not alone and that help is available.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. The risks of undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea include heart attacks, strokes, impotence, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and heart failure. In addition, obstructive sleep apnea causes daytime sleepiness that can result in accidents, lost productivity and interpersonal relationship problems. The severity of the symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe.
The best way to prevent sleep apnea is to start an early treatment of primary snoring, which might help stop the cycle that leads to obstructive sleep apnea. Also, treating obesity and losing weight can prevent sleep apnea from developing. If you believe that your bedmate might have sleep apnea, we recommend letting them know. Notice if they continue to snore loudly, and be more alert to your bedmate's sleep. The sooner that you seek treatment, the better are the chances of treating sleep apnea fast.
Sleep apnea is prevalent among obese people. Fatty cells in the throat tissue narrow and block the airway. A large neck is associated with sleep apnea, whether or not the person is obese. Obesity, particularly abdominal and upper body obesity, is considered to be the most significant risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Research shows that more than half of the people with sleep apnea are obese.
Weight loss can lead to a significant reduction in symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Even modest weight loss can help get the condition under control.
Obstructive sleep apnea affects 2 percent of children in the India. (The adenoids are a mass of tissue that connects the back of the nasal cavity to the throat.) When the throat muscles are relaxed during sleep, the adenoids and tonsils can block the airway. Some other causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children include cleft palate or cleft palate repairs, receding chin, allergies, anatomical abnormalities, and obesity.
Common symptoms and signs of sleep apnea in children:
If your child exhibits some of these symptoms you should strongly consider having your child take a polysomnography, a painless sleep study conducted in a sleep lab. These sleep studies are intended to check for sleep apnea in children and adults.
As in adults, children with sleep apnea can be sleepy during the day. School teachers may report that the child falls asleep frequently while in class. On the other hand, some children might become hyperactive as a result of sleep apnea. Behavior problems have been related to sleep apnea; specifically ADHD. Having sleep apnea can cause learning disabilities, morning headaches, or discipline problems.
Another problem of sleep apnea in children is called failure to thrive. Growth hormone is released when a child sleeps at night, and sleep apnea can interrupt this process. This means that some younger children with sleep apnea will not gain a normal amount of weight and height.
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