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Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that may turn in to a very serious condition. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops or gets very shallow while you are sleeping. Each pause typically lasts 10-20 seconds or more. These pauses can occur 20 to 30 times or more an hour.

Sleep apnea could be three types namely obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common subtype among these three types where as central sleep apnea is rare; mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the previous two with treatment being the same as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During sleep, enough air cannot flow into your lungs through your mouth and nose even though you try to breathe. When this happens, the amount of oxygen in your blood may drop. Normal breaths then start again with a loud snort or choking sound.

In sleep apnea your sleep is not restful because:

  • hese brief episodes of increased airway resistance (and breathing pauses) occur many times
  • ou may have many brief drops in your oxygen levels of the blood.
  • ou move out of deep sleep and into light sleep several times during the night, resulting in poor sleep quality.
  • hen your sleep is upset throughout the night, you can be very sleepy during the day.
  • eople with sleep apnea often have loud snoring. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Some people with sleep apnea don't know they snore.
  • leep apnea happens more often in people who are overweight, but even thin people can have it.
  • ost people don't know they have sleep apnea. They don't know that they are having problems breathing while they are sleeping.
  • family member and/or bed partner may notice the signs of sleep apnea first.
  • ntreated sleep apnea can increase the chance of having high blood pressure and even a heart attack or stroke. Untreated sleep apnea can also increase the risk of diabetes and the risk for work-related accidents and driving accidents.

Associated features of sleep apnea may include the following:
  • overweight
  • irritability
  • change in personality
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • excessive perspiring during sleep
  • heartburn
  • reduced libido
  • insomnia
  • frequent nocturnal urination (nocturia)
  • restless sleep
  • nocturnal snorting, gasping, choking (may wake self up)
  • rapid weight gain
  • confusion upon awakening
  • loud snoring
  • morning headaches
  • unrefreshing sleep
  • a dry mouth upon awakening
  • chest retraction during sleep in young children (chest pulls in)
  • high blood pressure
How is sleep apnea treated?
Currently there are no proven medications to treat sleep apnea, but there are some options available for patients suffering from sleep apnea. There are four basic strategies for the treatment of sleep apnea. They are not mutually exclusive and could be used in various combinations.

Life style modifications:
Sleep apnea is related to many physical conditions including overweight, alcohol abuse, and sedative drugs. Control or avoidance of these factors may improve sleep apnea. This would include weight loss, avoidance of alcohol and sedative drugs, trying to sleep only on your side and stopping smoking. It would also help to improve nasal breathing if this problem exists; sometimes this can be done with some simple medication and occasionally it requires an operation. Finally it is important to avoid sleep deprivation.

Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP):
Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) in a form of upper airway to support and hold the airway open. In this form of treatment patients wear a close fitting mask over the nose, which is attached to a supply of continuously flowing air via a flexible plastic hose from a medical air pump that sits on the floor or bedside table. The flow of air into the mask creates a dilating pressure that is transmitted from the mask through the nose into the upper airway. This positive pressure dilates the upper airway so the breathing is not interrupted.

Dental splint:
Sleep apnea may be controlled with the use of dental splint at night that effectively prevents the jaw and tongue from moving back when patients with sleep apnea lies down and goes to sleep. This approach may not be suitable for all patients. The splint may put some strain on the jaw, causing some amount of discomfort.

The tissue that is causing obstruction can be surgically removed to relive sleep apnea. The surgical procedure usually involves removal of the part of the soft palate that hangs down in the back of the throat, as well as the tonsils, and other soft tissue if it is felt to be excessive. The operation is called as a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). This surgical procedure was initially created as treatment of snoring. uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) may markedly reduce snoring, but is not very successful in the treatment of sleep apnea. The surgery is considered an option only in patients with severe sleep apnea.

Did you know?
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that may turn in to a very serious condition. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops or gets very shallow while you are sleeping. Each pause typically lasts 10-20 seconds or more. These pauses can occur 20 to 30 times or more an hour. Sleep apnea

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