Would you do anything for a good night’s sleep? Do you find yourself asking why you’re still tired after waking up? You may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Don’t worry -- If you have trouble sleeping at night, you’re not alone. Over 50 million Americans suffer from 80 different sleep disorders -- half of which are diagnosed with sleep apnea.
In this post, we will discuss:
- What is obstructive sleep apnea?
- How to tell if you have obstructive sleep apnea
- And the various treatment options
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by brief involuntary pauses in breathing during sleep. For those who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), airflow is blocked between the mouth, nose, and lungs due to their lack of throat space -- causing them to stop breathing (known as apnea).
What causes the muscles in our throats to fail at keeping an open airway? The Sleep Foundation says that any of these factors could be responsible:
- Having a naturally small upper airway, large tongue, large tonsils, or a large uvula
- Being overweight
- Having a recessed chin, small jaw, or large overbite
- Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater for males, 16 inches or greater for females)
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Being 40 and over
- And ethnicity (sleep apnea is more common in African-Americans, Pacific-Islanders, and Hispanics).
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most commonly seen form of sleep apnea.
What are the Consequences?
Without treatment, those who suffer from OSA can also develop underlying conditions:
- Low blood oxygen levels
- Fragmented sleep
- Heart disease
- Mood and memory problems
The risk for drowsy driving and other activities (that become dangerous when sleep-deprived) also increases.
How to Tell if You Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Of course, you should see a medical professional in order to diagnose your sleeping condition -- but becoming informed about OSA and how to spot it will help prepare you for the health journey ahead of you.
If you show any of these signs or symptoms, you may have obstructive sleep apnea:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Experiencing mood changes, such as depression or irritability
- High blood pressure
- Nighttime sweating
- Decreased libido
See your healthcare provider, doctor, or dentist if you are worried about any of the previous symptoms or if they affect your day-to-day life.
The American Sleep Apnea Association offers multiple self-tests that can be accessed here.
They also make a mobile sleep study app called SleepHealth that can be downloaded straight from the Apple Store.
“Download the app. Learn about the study. Review consent information, and begin today! Complete surveys. Perform daily tasks to learn more about your current sleep habits. See how they change over time." -- SleepHealth.
If self-evaluations aren’t cutting it for you, you can be professionally assessed through sleep studies such as a Polysomnogram. This test requires you to be observed overnight in a sleep study center in order to measure the activities of different organs associated with sleep.
Typically a Polysomnogram measures:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) -- brain waves
- Electrooculogram (EOM) -- eye movement
- Electromyogram (EMG) -- muscle activity
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) --heart rate and rhythm
- Pulse oximetry test -- changes in oxygen levels in the blood
Through collecting this data, a medical professional can determine whether you have obstructive sleep apnea or not.
Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Oral Appliance Therapy
Dentistry may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking about sleep apnea, but dentists actually have a big role in treatment -- they invented oral appliance therapy.
In oral appliance therapy (OAT), an oral appliance is fitted to the patient’s mouth and worn during sleep. This device prevents the airway from closing by supporting the jaw in a forward position. Besides treating obstructive sleep apnea, these devices also diminish snoring to both you and your partner can get a good night’s sleep.
Hypoglossus Nerve Stimulation
This new and innovative advancement in sleep apnea research uses a small device (surgically implanted in the chest) in order to monitor breathing. When breathing falters, the device will stimulate nerves that keep the upper airway open while you sleep. Hypoglossus Nerve Stimulation was approved by the FDA in 2014.
Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure
The Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP) technique requires the patient to wear disposable adhesive valves over their nose when sleeping. During inhalation, these valves open and clear the airway. During exhalation, airflow is swept through small channels.
This clinical method is also fairly young, but research has proven it successful with many patients.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is the most popular therapeutic treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. This method requires you to purchase a machine (CPAP Machine) that delivers pressurized air through a mask. When sleeping, the air pressure will prevent the upper airway passages from closing -- stopping apnea and snoring.
Thousands experience the symptoms and consequences of obstructive sleep apnea, but many do not even know they have it. Use this guide to understand the sleep disorder and assess if what you’re reading sounds too familiar. There are various treatment options that are made easily obtainable, comfortable, and life-changing. For further guidance and treatment options, ask your dentist or doctor what they can do for obstructive sleep apnea or seek out professional sleep study programs.