Sleep is not just “time out” from our daily life. It is an active state important for renewing our mental and physical health each day. More than 100 million Americans of all ages, however, regularly fail to get a good night’s sleep. Most sleeping disorders (sleep apnea/snoring) lead to a lowered quality of life and reduced personal health. These disorders can cause difficulties in falling asleep and or staying awake. Disruption of an individuals sleep cycle can lead to excessive daytime drowsiness which can cause traffic and industrial accidents as well as many serious health issues. Sleep disorders are diagnosed and or treated by many different healthcare professionals including general practitioners and dentists as well as specialists in sleep medicine, neurology, pulmonary medicine, psychiatry, psychology, and pediatrics.
While we sleep, the muscles that stiffen and open the throat tend to relax and can lead to a slight narrowing of the throat. As the airway narrows, tissues in the back of the throat begin to vibrate and cause you to snore. With obstructive sleep apnea, loud snoring may lead to the complete collapse of the airway thereby preventing oxygen from reaching into the lungs and thus, increasing the effort to breathe. Eventually, this increased effort to breathe awakens the brain causing the individual to “gasp” for air which disrupts their sleep cycle. The continual arousal from sleep due to these obstructions can occur between a few times a night to several hundred.
Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea may include the following:
Some of the risks associated with obstructive sleep apnea are increased motor vehicle accidents, decrease in work performance, high blood pressure, increased heart failure or heart attacks, stroke, depression and diabetes. If you have one or more of the above symptoms you should see a sleep specialist or your primary care physician.
Your physician/sleep specialist may have you do an overnight sleep study if he or she thinks that your snoring/OSA is a problem. This study is called a polysomnogram and will chart your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It will also record how your arms and legs move. This study should clearly show if you have sleep apnea or any other related sleep disorders.
The treatment you need depends on whether you have simple snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, then your treatment will vary depending on the severity of your disease. Your physician/ sleep specialist will be able to decide which treatment is best for you.