Sleep sweet sleep. Sleep, a vital part of our daily routine, is extremely important for our mind and body rejuvenation. When it’s time – this is what our bodies crave, and we can’t help but to give in, get cozy in our beds and do just that – sleep. If we are too tired, it comes and takes over, no matter where we are and sometimes, no matter what we are doing.
Some persons snore – they may even be laughed at for sound like an old Uhaul truck or an 18-wheeler changing from one gear to the other. This may even be you – and you are told that or even experience waking up as if you are choking several times during the night.
The interruptions to sleep several times throughout the night, which disturbs their sleep as well as that of their companions, is most times called sleep apnea. There may be snoring or just the absence of breathing for short periods of time.
Types of sleep apnea
And indeed, the breath is stopped in sleep apnea. Here the airways become blocked at different times in the night. This is referred to as obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea may be,
Mild obstructive sleep apnea sees a person having 5-14 episodes where breathing is interrupted in one hour.
Moderate obstructive sleep apnea – the person has 15-30 episodes where breathing is interrupted in one hour.
Severe obstructive sleep apnea – persons have more than 30 episodes where breathing is interrupted in one hour.
Central sleep apnea takes place where there are no signals coming from the brain to instruct the lungs to function and breathe.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs due to neuromuscular disorders, excessive weight, premature birth, enlarged tonsils, heart or kidney failure. There are several conditions which increase the risk of obstructive or central sleep apnea. Few are listed below.
(1) Studies have indicated that men are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. This may be related to fat distribution, where men have fat distributed more centrally.
(2) Another group at risk for sleep apnea are postmenopausal women. Menopause comes with loss of muscle tension with the decline in the amounts of estrogen and progesterone. This loss affects the airways and there may be some blockage. Hormone therapy may reduce the risk; however, hormone therapy is problematic due to the issues of cardiovascular disease and cancer of the breast and uterus.
(3) African Americans are 2 ½ times more likely to develop sleep apnea than other people groups.
(4) Acromegaly- This is a disease where the bones of the extremities, jaw and face are enlarged. Here the airway is narrowed due to an enlarged tongue.
(5) Men who consume copious amounts of alcohol are 25% more at risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea. This is due to the relaxation of the muscles of the airways by alcohol, which may lead to partial or complete blocking of the airways.
(6) Certain medications may increase the risk of sleep apnea. They increase the risk of airway collapse. These medications include narcotics and benzodiazepines.
(7) When the part of the brain that controls the muscles of the respiratory organs is hindered or otherwise affected by sickness, there not signals being relayed to the muscles to appropriate breathing. This in essence is central sleep apnea. Illnesses which affect this brain function includes, stroke, infection of the brain, cerebrovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, and left ventricular heart failure.
The symptoms of sleep apnea include
Breathing stops several times during the sleep cycle
Shortness of breath
Sleepwalking and sleep talking
Headaches in the mornings
Lots of sleep during the day
Lack of concentration /Irritability
Diagnosis of Sleep apnea
With these symptoms it is important to visit your health care practitioner or even a sleep specialist. Specialists include pulmonologists (specializes in illnesses involving the lungs), ear, throat and nose doctors (otolaryngologists), neurologists (specializes in nerves), and periodontists (dentists specializing in diseases of the oral and maxillary structures). One such periodontist is Dr. Kumar T Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, Board Certified Periodontist of Implants&Gumcare in Carrollton and Grapevine, Texas.
Diagnosis is important to rule out other illnesses that may have similar symptoms. Different processes are highlighted below.
1. The American Sleep Association (ASA) recommends that you take along with you your medical history and has an online support for just that. You can visit http://www.arbormedicus.com/chart/ register and complete the form. When you get to the doctor, he may have a look at the chart without even having to the print the document.
2. A review of your family’s medical history is also important as other persons in the family may have suffered from sleep apnea as well.
3. You will be taken through a physical examination where the doctor examines the nose, throat and mouth for any abnormalities, such as, additional structures and enlarged tissue mass, particularly towards the back of the top part of the mouth. The roof of the mouth may be enlarged. So too the uvula which is the structure hanging at the back of the mouth. The mandible or jaw may be small or depressed.
4. Where all other possible illnesses are ruled out, a Sleep Study is conducted which monitors specific body functions while sleeping.
Sleep apnea Treatments
There are several treatments for sleep apnea. If you were diagnosed, one of the first things you will be told to do is to change your lifestyle. These include:
Weight loss reduces snoring and sleep apnea events.
Desist from alcohol and sedatives. Alcohol and sedatives relaxes the muscles of the airways which increases the apnea events.
Change sleeping positions. Not sleeping on the back helps sufferers of mild sleep apnea who mostly sleep in this way. Putting a ball in a sock and pinning it to the back of the pajamas has been recommended by ASA to help in keeping the sufferer off their back.
Avoid nasal sprays. These may trigger a sinus activity or bring on congestion which increases the number of events of sleep apnea.
Maintain routine sleep patterns. It is usually best to get 6 – 8 hours of sleep each night, in order to be alert and functional the next day.
Avoid naps during the day.
Sleep apnea exercises.
Use of nasal strips or Stimulants
Other treatments involving use of CPAP, BPAP, MAD, TRD devices or Surgical procedures
The treatment for sleep apnea depends on the severity, physical make up, medical state as well as personal likes and dislikes of the treatment used.