Sleep apnea is a common, but potentially serious sleep disorder that affects about 18 million adults in the United States. Sleep apnea makes your breathing slow down, or sometimes stop completely, during sleep. As your brain registers the lack of oxygen, it stimulates breathing again, causing you to partially wake up. These pauses in breathing can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, and may take place more than 30 times in a single hour of sleep.
The three general types of sleep apnea are:
Obstructive sleep apnea: The most common form of the disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) takes place when your tongue and the soft tissues of your throat collapse and block your airway.
Central sleep apnea: This form of the disorder occurs when your brain fails to send the correct signals to the muscles that control respiration.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome: This rare form of sleep apnea is defined as having both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. However, it is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone. For example, small children who have enlarged tonsil tissues in their throats may have obstructive sleep apnea.
- Being male
- Being overweight
- Being over age 40
- Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
- Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
- Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
Although the trademark symptom of sleep apnea is loud, chronic snoring, not everyone who has sleep apnea is a snorer. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
- Abrupt nighttime awakenings, which may be accompanied by shortness of breath
- Waking up in the morning with a dry mouth or a sore throat
- Chronic morning headaches
- Excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, or irritability
Signs of sleep apnea in children include:
- Retarded growth
- Other hormonal and metabolic problems
Yes. If you have sleep apnea, chronic, disruptive snoring isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. Untreated sleep apnea increases your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, liver problems, and impotence. It also makes you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Because sleep apnea means you’re less likely to experience restorative sleep at night, you’re more likely to doze off unexpectedly during the day, increasing your risk of accidents on the road or at work.
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the best treatment approach will depend on your specific diagnosis, including the type of sleep apnea you have and its severity.
In conjunction with your physician, Dr. Bui will thoroughly evaluate the possible causes and recommend the appropriate treatment after a sleep study (if needed) is performed. For patients with mild sleep apnea who are looking for a simple and effective solution, Dr. Bui provides a wide variety of oral appliances designed to relieve snoring. These devices are designed to move your jaw into a position that will keep your airway open.
You may need to try more than one oral appliance before finding the one that works best for you. Once you find the right appliance, you’ll still need to follow up with Dr. Bui regularly to ensure that the fit remains correct, as well as to reassess your condition.