What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Sleep apnea is a disorder that prevents the body from getting sufficient oxygen during times of sleep. During sleep, the person with sleep apnea literally stops breathing for small periods of time, creating an extremely dangerous situation. Over 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and that figure includes women, men, and children though most of victims are older male adults. Sleep apnea is also known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and it’s the most common form. Throat blockage, mostly from the tongue or palate, is what gives obstructive sleep apnea its name – but it’s only one form. Two other forms are central sleep apnea and mixed sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central sleep apnea is a far rarer type of sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain signal that instructs the body to breathe is delayed. This central nervous system disorder can be caused by disease or injury involving the brainstem, such as a stroke, a brain tumor, a viral brain infection, or a chronic respiratory disease. People with CSA seldom snore, which makes it even harder to diagnose as they do not fit the “normal” profile of a sleep apnea sufferer. However, while the
causes of the breathing cessation are different in CSA and OSA, the symptoms and results are much the same – a deprivation of oxygen and poor sleep due to repeated awakenings at night.
The treatments for CSA include specific medications that stimulate the need to breathe and administration of oxygen.

Mixed sleep apnea
Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two other types of sleep apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea. A person with mixed sleep apnea will often snore, but finds that treatments which only help obstructions in the airways do not completely stop apnea episodes. Treatment usually includes a combination of the treatments used for OSA and CSA.

In all three types, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing or breath insufficiently to keep their blood oxygen saturation up; This can occur hundreds of time an hour. Each time it occurs, the brain arouses the individual to resume “normal” breathing.  This results in interrupted and poor quality sleep.

Who has Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is very common.  One out of four adults has sleep apnea and the odds get higher as you get older.  Forty percent of snorers have sleep apnea. There are several causes, however tongue or palate blockage is the main culprit. Basically, anything that prevents the lungs from getting enough air to the brain is at fault, thus almost all breathing problems have been blamed. From smoking and asthma, to being overweight to snoring, sleep apnea is now thought to play a role in developing diabetes, heart attacks, and even death.

Sleep Apnea Treatment
Most treatments for sleep apnea involve the CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure). This machine works to supply the body (lungs and brain) with enough oxygen while the patient is sleeping. Some machines use nasal masks that cover the mouth and nose to send air, while others use a tube-connected mouth or nose piece to deliver air. The idea with either method is to keep the airway open so that a patient gets sufficient air through regular breathing.

Since the CPAP machine is a medical device, it requires a prescription from a neurologist and a polysomnogram (sleep study) examination.

Depending on the severity of the sleep apnea, a CPAP machine may not be needed. Some people have found relieve through natural methods simply by losing weight, cutting out certain foods from a diet, reducing alcohol consumption, or even avoiding certain medications under the doctor’s advice. Others have found help from the continued use of an oral appliance, best in the treatment of mild to moderate sleep apnea, in those unable or unwilling to use a CPAP machine. OSA Oral Devices are commonly made by Dr. Cairo and his exceptional team.

It is important to note that under no circumstance, should a patient take a sleeping aid as a way to thwart sleep apnea. Sleeping aids are designed to deepen sleep, while sleep apnea treatments are designed to increase airflow. Both treatments solve completely different problems.

What happens if it is untreated?
Sleep Apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, stroke, acid reflux, weight gain, impotency, memory problems, and headaches. The average life of an untreated apnea is about 55 years if they have had it all their life, but once they get past that hurdle, they are safe from death, but not from misery.

If you are having trouble sleeping come in for a check up and we can help diagnose what the problem is and get you the help you need to get the proper rest.