One of the most serious sleep disorders is sleep apnea. An individual with this condition literally stops breathing during sleep. Snoring, gasping or choking during sleep may occur. This may happen hundreds of times during the night, causing a person to awaken slightly to resume breathing. Such fragmented sleep is not restful, but dangerous in that it is related to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, weight gain and other health problems.
Obstructive Apnea is caused by temporary blockages in the throat and nose which prevent air from passing into the lungs. These blockages are caused by relaxed throat muscles, the tongue, excessive fatty tissues, enlarged tonsils or enlarged adenoids. Central Sleep Apnea usually affects adults over age 60, and sufferers often complain of insomnia. This is a rare form of apnea where the brain fails to send messages to the respiratory systems.
Signs of Sleep Disorders:
- Excessive or loud snoring, choking or gasping during sleep
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, or difficulty concentrating
- An achy, creeping or burning feeling in the legs when reclined
- Morning headaches
- Use of caffeine or other medications to stay awake
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Some factors that contribute to obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Certain shapes of the palate and jaw
- Large tonsils and adenoids in children
- Large neck or collar size
- Large tongue
- Narrow airway
- Nasal obstruction
- Recent weight gain
Sleep Disorder Treatment
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (often referred to as CPAP). This consists of wearing a mask that delivers an air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep. There are several different styles of masks.
You will be fitted with a mask that is comfortable for you, and during the titration sleep study the technologist will adjust the pressure to reduce or eliminate all of the apneas. This is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.
Other treatments for sleep apnea include:
These are devices worn in the mouth that pull the jaw forward to help keep the airway open.
Uses your own breath to create EPAP which helps keep your airway open expiatory positive airway pressure.
Weight loss may reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. Reducing the use of alcohol or sedatives may also reduce or eliminate sleep apnea.
Apnea occurs more frequently while sleeping on your back; therefore, sleeping on your side may reduce or eliminate sleep apnea.