What Is Sleep Apnea?

Simply put, sleep apnea is when you stop breathing at night. Short pauses in breathing are normal at night, but when your breathing stops long enough, your brain has to wake partially to resume breathing. You might not consciously wake, but your sleep is interrupted. Your body responds as if it were suffocating. This disrupts the function of your heart and your metabolism. The result is not just poor sleep, but poor health.

Why does your breathing stop? There are two types: obstructive and central. Obstructive is the most common form. In this form, your airway muscles relax and gravity pulls your airway closed. In central sleep apnea, your brain stops sending the signals telling your body to breathe.

You can have both types at the same time. Sometimes this is called complex sleep apnea.

Identifying Your Sleep Apnea

Because sleep is so important it could lead to many diverse symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms people report include:

  • Waking up unrested
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Dozing off at work or while driving
  • Memory problems
  • Low mood
  • Lack of interest or motivation

At the same time, people who sleep in the same house or same room as you may report signs of sleep apnea such as:

  • Snoring
  • Restless sleep
  • Gasping or choking at night
  • Clenching or grinding teeth

Meanwhile, your doctor may diagnose you with conditions that are either related to sleep apnea or are confused with it, like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Low testosterone
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Atrial fibrillation

High blood pressure, especially high blood pressure that doesn’t respond to medications, is considered one of the strongest signs. Several other of the conditions above might be symptoms as well.

If you have more than a few of the above symptoms, you need to be tested for sleep apnea. This means a sleep test, but usually, you can have your sleep test at home.

Dangers

The major disruption of your sleep, metabolism, and cardiovascular system can lead to dangerous, potentially deadly consequences. In fact, people with sleep apnea might be 5-6 times more likely to die young than those without the condition.

The most common cause of sleep apnea-related death is heart attack. However, it can also be linked to stroke and pulmonary embolism. It can damage your kidneys, lead to early dementia, and increase your cancer risk.

In addition, your daytime sleepiness can put you at increased risk for traffic or workplace accidents.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep apnea is highly treatable. With successful treatment, your risk of complications goes down and your quality of life goes up. There is not just one treatment, but many treatment options that let you choose the one that best suits you.

CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure, is a pump system that forces air into you through a nosepiece or mask. This keeps your airway from collapsing. It’s highly effective, but most people don’t use it because it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, and hard to wear all night.

Oral appliance therapy uses a mouthguard that can help hold your airway open. This is a comfortable, convenient alternative that is just as effective as CPAP. In the case of the DNA appliance, the goal is to reshape your airway, potentially curing your sleep apnea permanently.

Myofunctional therapy teaches you how to incorporate healthy positioning and healthy action into your daily routine. This can strengthen the muscles of your airway, reshape the airway, and help you breathe easier both day and night.

Surgery can be a sleep apnea treatment, but the risks are high. People are at elevated risk of surgical complications. Even when surgery works, the results are often temporary. Surgery should be considered a last resort.

Customized Treatment in Columbus

If you suspect or have been diagnosed, Dr. Mike can help. He directs patients to treatment that is best for their health, their happiness, and their lifestyle.

You can enjoy better sleep in just three easy steps! First, a free consultation. Second, get an oral appliance. Third, enjoy better sleep!

To learn more about which sleep apnea treatment is right for you, please call (614) 683-4640 today for a free consultation at Firouzian Sleep Wellness. We offer both in-person and virtual consultations.