Sleep Apnea: A Weighty Issue
Sleep apnea is the condition for where there are pauses in breathing during sleep. These are defined by medical terminology when an individual literally stops breathing. There are two types of apneas Central and Obstructive. This is a common problem among the morbidly obese which requires them to wear an oxygen mask so they can breathe since that’s due in part of their weight bearing down on their chest crushing their rib cage and lungs.
According to medical reports, the population at risk are obese middle-aged males since physiology doesn’t make women potential sufferers of sleep apnea. The problem is that people who do fall asleep due to sleep apnea will go through brief periods where people think they’re not going to wake up. Keep in mind that this is very serious because if it’s not properly diagnosed it can be life-threatening. People with excessive weight usually morbidly obese constantly have to deal with frequent episodes of paused breathing. Snoring is a common problem with the morbidly obese and constant gasping for air while sleeping is another problem. Obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous to the heart because it’s prolonging and deprivation of oxygen to keep the circulation flowing efficiently.
Other symptoms that are deemed non-specific are headaches, irritability, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, Nocturia (getting up in the middle of the night to urinate), increased urination, decreased sexual drive, increased heart rate, anxiety, depression, esophageal reflux (acid reflux disease), and profuse heavy sweating at night.
Sleep apnea has also been linked to congestive and congenital heart failure usually found in people who are diagnosed as morbidly obese because of the excessive weight on them. This is from severe and prolonged cases meaning the individual(s) were not being treated and had let the condition get to the point that it’s no longer treatable.
Individuals born with Down’s Syndrome are likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea since 50% of the population that has this genetic condition is likely to be diagnosed because of having an enlarged head, adenoids, tonsils, tongue, and narrowing of the nasopharynx. Pharyngeal flap surgery has also been noted to cause sleep apnea in patients because of the obstruction in the breathing pattern after surgery which if not monitored can be life-threatening. There are different treatments for people with sleep apnea and doctors and ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) specialists take the following into consideration for designing a treatment plan for those who are diagnosed with this condition.
The factors that are considered are an individual’s medical history, the severity of the disorder, and the specific cause for the obstruction. Some treatments also incorporate a lifestyle change, avoiding alcohol and medications that can relax the nervous system.
Other lifestyle changes are losing weight and quitting smoking, and incorporate things like elevating themselves while sleeping so that they can breathe using slanted pillows. The weight issue is the biggest lifestyle concern because that causes some people to be confined to beds where they can’t move and be active contributing further into a person’s weight gain.
Usually, if someone who’s morbidly obese and loses about 50 pounds within a couple months their condition improves, but it’s usually up to a steady support system to get someone on a set routine and healthy eating plan that helps to get their weight down so they can qualify for other treatments to help them maintain weight loss which is either through gastric bypass which has to be strongly enforced since this surgery is irreversible and you have to eat differently and undergo a major lifestyle change. The other option is lap band, which is reversible, but again to maintain the weight loss to improve sleep and breathing patterns come with monitoring what one eats and exercises to help improve breathing patterns.
Sleep Apnea – A Sleep Disorder That Can Be Fatal
Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can be life-threatening and at times fatal. People with sleep apnea often fall asleep normally; however, once asleep their ability to breathe is blocked. Usually, this inability to breathe is caused by the muscles in the throat relaxing too much and collapsing into the airway. The body then sends a signal to the brain that breathing has temporarily been blocked. This causes the person to wake up and start breathing again.
The cycle of interrupted breathing can occur many times throughout the night. These episodes can occur up to 50 times an hour and last for ten seconds or longer. Often the person that suffers from this sleep disorder is unaware that anything is happening to them. They can not understand why they always feel tired during the daytime.
The most common form of this sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, known as OSA. Some sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from central sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is then called mixed sleep apnea.
It is believed that obstructive sleep apnea affects between 18 – 20% of adults in the United States. If this sleep disorder is left untreated it can become life-threatening and in rare cases fatal. It is the underlying cause of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, pulmonary hypertension, and systemic hypertension.
There are several methods of treatment for sleep apnea, both surgical and noninvasive. The first line of therapy for someone suffering from moderate to severe sleep apnea is called positive airway pressure. Known as PAP, positive airway pressure is a noninvasive form of treatment. A machine delivers a constant flow of air through a mask that is worn while sleeping. The force of the airflow must be determined by a sleep technician during an overnight sleep study. There are three types of positive air pressure therapy, CPAP, BiPAP, and AutoPAP.
Dental devices are also used to treat this sleep disorder in mild to moderate cases. Dental devices fall into two general categories: mandibular, or lower jaw, advancing devices or tongue retaining devices. Mandibular devices are used most often. They attach to the upper jaw and pull the lower jaw and base of the tongue forward. This shift in position keeps the airway open.
Medications are generally not a successful form of treatment for most people with sleep apnea. However, many of them do take antidepressants and mondafinal.
Supplemental oxygen is often used in conjunction with a PAP machine. Oxygen alone can not prevent the collapse of the airway or sleep fragmentation. However, oxygen can prevent the drop in the level of blood oxygen that occurs when the airway collapses.
There are also surgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea that may be an option for some sufferers of this sleep disorder. These include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, somnoplasty, corrective jaw surgery, palatal implants, and tracheostomy.
People with this sleep disorder generally find that their quality of life can improve with the proper treatment.
Sleep Apnea Is More Than a Snoring Problem
Sleeping near a person who snores can seriously interrupt sleep. “If only the snoring would stop,” you think. Then it does. Peaceful as it is, that’s not always a healthy sign. Snoring is related to a condition known as sleep apnea.
If you have sleep apnea, your nighttime breathing is interrupted and doesn’t return promptly. Sleep apnea can be a life-threatening condition. The airflow into your body is delayed by more than 10 seconds.
That may not sound like much, but it’s a serious situation. This breathing interruption can happen up to five times in an hour during sleep. If you snore loudly and nightly, you’re at higher risk for sleep apnea than the occasional snorer.
Other signs of sleep apnea are episodes of daytime fatigue and emotional distress or skill deficits when you’re tired. Sleep apnea seems to start most often in middle age and afflicts more men than women.
Risk factors for sleep apnea are:
- Overweight by more than 120% of your appropriate body weight
- Large neck girth. That’s determined by using a tape measure. The danger level is 17” or greater for men and 16” or greater for women.
- Hypertension whether treated or untreated by medication
- Narrow nasal passages
A medically supervised sleep study is needed to diagnose sleep apnea. A home monitor can be used for children as well as adults to monitor breathing interruptions. You have a number of options for treating sleep apnea.
You can be fitted for a dental appliance, an orthodontic device that you wear at night. Basically this appliance changes the tongue placement so that the airway is clear for breathing.
Losing weight is also important to moderating sleep apnea. Along with losing weight, you need to be in an exercise program. Many people report that their sleep apnea completely disappears once they lose weight and get back to a normal, healthy range.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) masks are worn over the nose and mouth to force air into the nasal passages in a continuous flow. This may not be the most comfortable way to sleep, but it has been highly effective and most people get used to the machine and rely on it to deliver a good night’s sleep.
If all else fails, there are surgical procedures such as widening the palate, restructuring nasal cavities or taking out the tonsils to aid in a sleep apnea disorder. Make sure you don’t ignore your snoring and mistake it as something harmless because if it’s sleep apnea, you’re putting your life at risk!
When Snoring Intrudes on Your Slumber
Snoring can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule – whether you’re the one with the snoring issue, or the person lying next to you is causing the noise. It can become a serious medical condition if the snoring is something more – sleep apnea, where the person’s snoring halts their breathing and causes them to gasp for their next breath.
If you’re sleeping next to a snorer, then you may not be in full control of the solutions you consider. Many couples find the sleep-deprived spouse routinely moves into another room, wears earplugs, or spends all night tapping the snorer on the shoulder to interrupt the snoring and allow them enough time to get to sleep.
It can be torturous to sleep next to someone who snores because it’s like having someone constantly stand they’re waking you up throughout the night. You might get very irritable and feel guilt for getting mad at someone who can’t control their noise level during the night.
The person doing the snoring (which may or may not be you) needs to find a solution that will quiet the snoring and allow them – and the ones they love – to have a peaceful night’s sleep.
Snoring is so common that about one-third of adults seek solutions for this issue every year. It may happen nightly, or only on occasion, such as when you’ve had alcohol before bed.
It’s caused when the air flows into your throat past the soft tissue, resulting in a loud vibration. People who are overweight may suffer from snoring more often than those who are not. Shedding pounds is often enough to shut down the snoring cycle for good.
Some people have resorted to sewing tennis balls in the backs of their pajamas to forcibly keep them on their side, since snoring is more prominent when the person is lying on their back.
Nasal strips and oral appliances can sometimes work. These keep your nasal passages or airways in your throat open to allow your breathing to continue without interruption. If sleep apnea is an issue, where your snoring fits suddenly stop with your breathing until you gasp for air, then you might want to consider undergoing a sleep study so you can be fitted for a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. This mask pumps air into your airways, keeping them open to prevent snoring and interruption of breathing.
As a last resort, you might consider getting surgery to address your snoring issues. All three surgeries aim to do the same thing – remove tissue obstructions to help you breathe better during slumber, but each one uses a different technology.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is the common surgery done under general anesthesia where the doctor trims your airways of tissue that could be obstructing your breathing.
Uvulopalatoplasty, or laser surgery, is another option where a laser beam is used to remove your uvula. It removes excess tissue just like traditional surgery, allowing air to flow without the loud, disruptive vibrations snoring usually produces.
Somnoplasty, which is also known as radiofrequency tissue ablation, is when a surgeon uses low-intensity radio signals to take out part of your soft palate – enough to end snoring and allow air to flow freely.
Talk to your doctor if non-surgical remedies aren’t working and see what type of options he or she can offer to help you (and your loved ones) find some peace and quiet during the night.