Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder characterized by loud snoring and pauses in breathing that occur repeatedly throughout the night. Left untreated, sleep apnea may increase the chance of serious health complications such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Sleep apnea occurs when tissues in the throat relax during sleep, obstructing the airway. This leads to cessations of breath lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, and can occur hundreds of times throughout the night. When normal breathing resumes, it may be accompanied by a loud snort, choke, or gasp for breath.
Interruptions in breathing rob the body of restorative sleep, leading to daytime drowsiness and fatigue. Symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
- Headache upon awakening
- Lack of concentration
- Memory loss
Many individuals with sleep apnea only become aware of their condition when their partner complains about their snoring. Risk factors include:
- Male gender
- Age 40+
- Alcohol or tobacco use
- Family history
Mild cases can often be treated by implementing lifestyle changes including: avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, weight loss, sleeping on your side rather than your back, and trying nasal sprays or strips to assist with breathing. An oral appliance may help to reposition the lower jaw and tongue during sleep, promoting unobstructed breathing.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the preferred treatment method for those with moderate to severe sleep apnea. A mask worn over the nose or mouth is attached to a machine that delivers steady bursts of air pressure, keeping airway passages open during sleep. If CPAP does not provide you with the relief you are seeking, surgery may be discussed.
If you have been told that you snore too loudly, experience pauses in your breathing or suffer from daytime fatigue, contact Sacramento Ear, Nose & Throat at (916) 736-3399 today to schedule an appointment. Our physicians are here to help you obtain your best night of sleep possible.