Sleep apnea is considered as a common disorder, which involves one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. The pause in each breathing is called an apnea, which can last for a number of seconds to minutes, and this may happen at least five times in every 60 minutes. With the pauses in breathing, sleep apnea is viewed as a potentially sleep disorder.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are three main types of sleep apnea, namely, complex sleep apnea syndrome, central sleep apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea. The first type is obstructive sleep apnea, which is the more common form of the sleep disorder. It happens when the muscles of the throat are relaxed. The second type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, which happens when the brain fails to transmit proper signals to the breathing muscles. The third type is called complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is also referred to as treatment0emergent central sleep apnea. This type of sleeping apnea happens when a person both have the first two types of the sleeping disorder.
Usually, sleep apnea cannot be diagnosed, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH). The publication said that physicians usually cannot identify the condition during routine medical consultations. In addition, sleep apnea cannot be detected for diagnosis through blood tests. Since, sleep apnea only happens during sleep, most people affected with the sleep disorder are not aware on the reason they have it. Usually, a family member or the person sleeping next to the person with sleep apnea might be the first one to notice the signs of sleep apnea.
The major signs of sleep apnea include choking or gasping following the pauses in breathing, according to the Help Guide. Other common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include sleepiness during the day, at work, or while driving; falling asleep during inactive times of the day; morning headache; feelings of irritability, mood swings, depression, and personality changes; memory or learning problems; inability to concentrate; frequent waking up to urinate; and dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up.
The management of mild sleep apnea may involve lifestyle changes. According to Mayo Clinic, these include weight loss and smoking cessation. Nasal allergies may also be addressed through appropriate medications. For moderate to severe cases or if the aforementioned actions fail to manage sleep apnea, there are other treatments that can be done. Other changes in daily routines include avoiding of alcohol and medications that cause sleepiness, sleeping on one’s side rather than on the back to help the throat remain open, and using nasal sprays to keep nasal passages open at night.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP is the most usual treatment for adults who have moderate to severe sleep apnea, according to NIH. It involves a CPAP machine, which is a mask that is worn over a person’s mouth or nose, or just over the nose. The machine works by gently blowing air into the throat, so that the pressure from the air maintains an open airway during sleep. This treatment may have side effects in some people and these include having dry or stuffy nose, dry mouth, irritated skin on the person’s face, and headache. Stomach bloating and discomfort may also happen, if the CPAP machine is not properly adjusted.
Oral health can also be checked to manage sleep apnea, as the structures of the mouth affect breathing during sleep. According to American Sleep Apnea Association, a full evaluation of the teeth, mouth, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) can be done to ascertain that the teeth and jaw structures are healthy and strong enough to don an oral appliance. After a dental exam, custom models of the person’s teeth will be made, which will be applied on the day of follow-up.
If one feels that he might have any form of sleep apnea, he should consider seeking medical consult with a physician. This way, symptoms can be alleviated while the risk of heart problems and their complications is ruled out.