Sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing stops and restarts throughout the night. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after you’ve slept eight hours, you may have sleep apnea.
There are three types of sleep apnea, which include:
Obstructive sleep apenea
Complex sleep apnea
Central Sleep apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Probably the most common form of apnea, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your throat muscles are too lax and block your airway.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain stops sending the proper signals to the muscles that regulate your breathing.
Complex Sleep Apnea
Complex sleep apnea also referred to as treatment-emergent apnea, happens when you suffer from both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Hypopneic events occur when breathing is overly shallow. Although some may say it's not as dangerous as true apnea, research shows that it is just as detrimental to the sufferer's overall health.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it’s important to see your doctor for a formal diagnosis. Appropriate treatment can ease or eliminate your symptoms and may also help ward off other potential complications.
Since the symptoms of obstructive and central apnea are so similar, it can be difficult to determine which type of apnea someone is suffering from. Regardless, some of the most typical symptoms include:
Loud snoring with periods of intermittent silence and gasping
Waking abruptly short of breath, which is a sign of central sleep apneic event
Difficulty staying asleep
Dry mouth and sore throat
Excessive sleepiness during the day
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Based on your symptoms and detailed medical history, your physician may recommend that you have a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea. You’ll probably be referred to a sleep specialist who will perform an evaluation. Usually, you will undergo a sleep study, which will monitor your body function and respiratory status overnight. Although this type of evaluation typically takes places in a sleep center, you may also be a candidate for an at-home sleep study.
Tests used to diagnose sleep apnea include:
Polysomnography. During this evaluation, you are hooked up to various types of monitoring equipment, which records brain activity, arm and leg movements, brain activity and lung function.
At-Home Sleep Study: In some cases, your physician will you to undergo testing at home. This type of testing also measures your airflow, blood oxygen levels and heart rate while you sleep.
If the results are abnormal in either study, your doctor may recommend a CPAP.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
If diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are different forms of treatment. The most common form of treatment is CPAP. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a machine that delivers continuous air pressure via a mask while you are sleeping. Air pressure is calibrated based on the severity of your symptoms and test results.
The goal is to deliver just enough pressure to keep your airways open while you are sleeping and prevent apnea. And although CPAP is the most reliable form of treatment, many people are unable to tolerate it. Some people find the mask bothersome and are unable to sleep. If this is the case, you may need to try more than one mask to find one that’s comfortable. Some masks only cover your nose while others cover your entire face. There are even circumstances where you may only need to use a nasal cannula to prevent apneic symptoms.
Depending on your diagnosis, you may require a BiPAP. Bilevel positive airway pressure functions differently than traditional CPAP. A BiPAP slowly increases to a higher pressure when you inhale as opposed to a CPAP, which delivers airflow at the same air pressure as long as it is in use.
Being diagnosed with sleep apnea can be frightening and stressful. Thankfully, there are ways to manage it and keep possible serious health complications at bay.