Symptoms and Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea has a variety of symptoms. The constricted airway often causes loud snoring. Other symptoms include waking up many times during the night, often with a choking or gasping sensation. Another frequent symptom is not feeling refreshed after sleeping, feeling excessively tired during the day, or insomnia. Frequent nighttime urination, decreased sex drive, hypertension, inability to lose weight, poor memory, elevated blood sugar, increased incidence of stroke are all found in persons with untreated sleep apnea. However, sleep apnea symptoms are not a simple checklist – it is possible to snore without sleep apnea, or have sleep apnea but not snore. In order to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, it is necessary to visit a sleep specialist for an overnight sleep study.
Sleep apnea does not have a single cause, but there are a several factors that can increase risk. Overweight people are at a significantly higher risk of sleep apnea, as are people with a large neck size because they often have smaller airways. Additionally, there are a large variety of other risk factors, such as a small lower jaw, braces which pull the teeth backwards, a large tongue, age, male gender, alcohol or sedative use before bedtime and African American heritage which all increase the probability of having sleep apnea. Smoking can cause a similar problem: smoking inflames the airway, causing it to partially close. Sleeping on your back rather than your side can also help to restrict the airway.
Sleep apnea disrupts sleep and worsens overall health, leading to systemic effects. Sleep apnea is known to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction and depression.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
While we sleep, gravity and muscle relaxation allows the tongue and surrounding soft tissue to fall back into the throat area, collapsing the airway and obstructing the air ow.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
- CPAP machine supplies pressurized air through a tube and into a mask that is worn over the nose, or sometimes nose and mouth.
- The increased air pressure prevents the sleeper’s airway from collapsing during sleep.
Continuous Open Airway Therapy
- Worn during sleep, continuous open airway therapy consists of devices that t over the upper and lower teeth.
- COAT devices treat OSA by moving the lower jaw slightly forward. This forward movement helps keep the airway open.
- These devices are comfortable and simple to use.