What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition where you cannot breathe when sleeping. There are two types of it:
1) Obstructive apnea
It happens when your throat closes up during sleep, causing oxygen to drop.
2) Central apnea
It happens when the brain does not send the right signals to the muscles to stimulate them to breathe.
People with underlying heart disease have a high probability to suffer from sleep apnea. It can be mild, moderate or severe.
People who have obesity are more tend to this disease. Excess fat in the mouth or throat can cause the airway to become blocked.
Abnormally shaped teeth, a short neck, nasal polyps or swollen nasal tissue can also cause the development of sleep apnea.
Snoring loudly and restless sleep, frequent awakenings to urinate, unrefreshed sleep or feeling tired when waking up in the morning and experiencing dry mouth or early morning headaches upon waking are the symptoms of the disease.
Some patients with sleep apnea do not have symptoms or even know they have the condition. More commonly they might think that it is normal to feel tired or to snore a lot.
Sleep apnea is diagnosed using a test called a sleep study. The parameters tested in the test are the oxygenation, heart rate, airflow, chest and abdominal movements. Patients are hooked up to a few different wires during the test.
A more complex sleep test called “full polysomnogram” can monitor additional parameters like muscles and brain activities during the test. This test is only performed in the hospital.
The most effective or fundamental treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), a device that helps keep your airway open when you sleep by blowing air into your mouth or nose.
Another device that can be used is something called “oral appliance” This device is used for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP machines
However, it does not work as well as the CPAP machine in treating sleep apnea.
Losing weight, reducing alcohol intake and avoiding sleeping late can aid in the treatment of apnea.
Ensuring good quality sleep is very important for your brain and your muscles to energize and work properly.
When nothing else works, surgery might be the last resort to help keep your airway open. Even then, surgery is not always effective and the problem might come back. Surgery can also be associated with other risks such as infection, pain or bleeding.
Hence if you are already on a lot of medication for hypertension or diabetes and your condition is still not well-controlled, you should look out for undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea.
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