Sleep apnea is a condition that interrupts your regular breathing pattern at night and prevents your body from receiving an adequate amount of oxygen. Although sleep apnea is a common condition that affects approximately 22 million US adults, nearly 80% of sleep apnea cases remain undiagnosed. Sleep apnea is a serious condition, however, which left undiagnosed can lead to other conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax and block your airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the signal between the brain and the muscles that control your breathing are interrupted. Both types of sleep apnea can produce multiple episodes per night. As soon as your body stops breathing and is no longer receiving oxygen, the brain responds by waking you up. If this occurs consistently throughout the night, you may experience daytime fatigue and sleepiness the next day. Other symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, waking up with a dry mouth, morning headaches and insomnia.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to other medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease. When the body is consistently deprived of oxygen, your blood pressure increases in an effort to continue circulating oxygenated blood to all of your organs. This type of strain on the cardiovascular system can lead to arrhythmia (or irregular heartbeat), heart attack and stroke.
Depending on the type of sleep apnea you have, your doctor may prescribe different treatment methods, such as a CPAP machine or oral appliance therapy. A CPAP machine (or continuous positive airway pressure machine) involves wearing a mask over your mouth and nose at night, which ensures your airway stays open by pumping air through it all night. For milder cases, oral appliance therapy, which is similar to a mouthguard, may be used to prevent the tongue and upper airway muscles from obstructing your airway.
If you think that you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea, call us today at 904.493.3333 to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified sleep specialists.