Sleep Apnea and How it Can Affect Your Life and Health

What is Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea? At some point, you’ve probably heard that a good night’s rest is important for your health and wellbeing. But how much sleep do you really need? And are there other benefits to getting enough sleep? Let’s talk about it. 

How Much Sleep Do I Need? 

An adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Depending on the individual, you may need more or less. On the other hand, a newborn infant can spend up to 18 hours asleep! 

Why Is Sleep So Important? 

Sleep helps your body perform well-functioning daily activities. When you don’t get enough sleep, you feel tired, and your body does not work as well as it could. Your brain doesn’t function at its peak either. After several days of not getting enough sleep, your brain shows signs of permanent damage and may even stop working entirely if the deprivation continues long enough. Additionally, lack of sleep contributes to depression and anxiety because it makes people irritable and unhappy. 

What Are Some Reasons Why People Don’t Get Enough Sleep? 

There are many different reasons why people don’t get enough sleep at night. Anyone who’s had a stormy night’s sleep knows how miserable it can feel to face the next day. You drag yourself through work and yawn your way through dinner, wishing you could go back to bed. But all that exhaustion comes with another, less obvious downside: a higher risk of health problems. 

If you’re not sleeping well or experiencing disrupted sleep patterns, you’re at increased risk of developing heart disease, obesity, and diabetes—all of which have serious health consequences in their own right. 

What Is Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep Apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects more than 1 in 4 adults. It occurs when the muscles in your airway relax and block your airways, which can cause you to stop breathing for 10 seconds (or longer) at a time. In severe cases, this can occur up to 400 times per night. While we sleep, our body systems slow down, so you might not notice the effects of sleep apnea right away. But if left untreated, it can have serious health consequences. 

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea 

It’s common for people to be unaware of their condition. This is because many symptoms occur during sleep when you cannot observe them directly. For example, a partner may notice that you snore loudly and gasp or choke during sleep.

Other common symptoms include, 

  • Morning headaches 
  • Difficulty staying asleep 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Daytime fatigue and moodiness 
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up 

Types of Sleep Apnea 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This is the most common type— about 80% of sleep apnea cases are OSA. In this kind of Sleep Apnea, the airway is blocked or partially blocked, preventing air from moving into and out of the lungs. 

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). In this type of sleep apnea, the brain does not send signals to the muscles that control breathing, so there is no effort to breathe for a while. 

Mixed or Complex Sleep Apnea. This is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. 

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed? 

It is diagnosed with an overnight sleep study or a home sleep test. An overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram (PSG), is the most common way to diagnose sleep apnea. This test is performed in a sleep lab or at home and monitors your breathing, brain waves, oxygen levels, leg movements, and heart rate while you sleep. 

In some cases, the results of the PSG may show mild or moderate OSA even though a person has severe symptoms. This is because of the limited number of hours that are monitored during this test. 

The Home Sleep Test (HST) allows you to be monitored for as long as you would normally sleep at night. The HST also monitors your breathing and oxygen level during sleep. The HST is more convenient than an overnight PSG because it can be done in your own home, but the results are not always as accurate as an overnight PSG and may need to be confirmed with another test. Consult our Sleep Specialists to schedule your sleep study. 

How is it Treated? 

There are three main types of treatments for sleep apnea: lifestyle changes, devices, and surgery to help with breathing during sleep. 

Lifestyle Changes: Losing weight is the most common lifestyle change needed to treat sleep apnea. Other changes include adjusting your sleeping position and cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, or smoking. Your doctor may also recommend eating foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. This can help you get better sleep overall, but it’s not a cure.. 

Devices: There are several devices designed to help people with mild or moderate sleep apnea breathe more easily during the night. These include a CPAP machine or continuous positive airway pressure that uses a mask to blow pressurized air into your airway to help keep it open. 

Surgery may be an option if other treatments don’t help. Surgery can also be used to help treat sleep apnea. The most common surgeries are uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), tracheotomy, and tongue reduction. 

Our multidisciplinary team of expert Neurologists, Pulmonologists, ENT Specialists, Bariatric Surgeons, and Nutritionists can discuss your sleep disorder and help you determine the best course of treatment for a good night’s sleep.