Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. People with sleep apnea may not be aware of these breathing interruptions, but they can lead to a number of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
There are three main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the tissues in the back of the throat relax and collapse during sleep, blocking the airway.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The most common symptom of sleep apnea is snoring. Other symptoms may include:
- Loud gasping or choking during sleep
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- Decreased libido
Causes of Sleep Apnea
The exact cause of sleep apnea is not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:
- Narrow airways
- Large tongue or tonsils
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Certain medical conditions, such as heart failure, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease
- Medications, such as sedatives and alcohol
Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea
If you think you may have sleep apnea, it is important to see a doctor. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and may perform a physical exam. They may also order a sleep study, which is a test that monitors your breathing and other bodily functions while you sleep.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea
The best treatment for sleep apnea depends on the type of sleep apnea you have and the severity of your symptoms. Common treatments include:
Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bed can help to improve sleep apnea symptoms.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): CPAP is a non-invasive treatment that delivers pressurized air through a mask worn over the nose or mouth during sleep. This air helps to keep the airways open and prevent breathing interruptions.
Oral appliance therapy: An oral appliance is a mouthpiece that is worn over the teeth at night. It helps to keep the lower jaw in a forward position, which helps to open the airways.
Surgery: Surgery may be an option for people with severe sleep apnea that does not respond to other treatments.
If you have sleep apnea, it is important to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. With treatment, most people with sleep apnea can experience significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.
Here are some additional tips for managing sleep apnea:
- Establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
- Get regular exercise, but avoid exercising too close to bedtime.