We’re used to looking at snoring as a nuisance, something that annoys you and, maybe, costs your partner a restful night’s sleep every now and then. However, in many instances, snoring can be brought on by a condition known as sleep apnea.
When you’re sleeping, you can suddenly stop breathing because of sleep apnea. You should certainly take sleep apnea seriously because even though it’s not that rare, sleep apnea can have severe health repercussions.
Sleep apnea – what is it?
Technically, sleep apnea is a breathing ailment. Obstructive sleep apnea is an ailment that is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea here’s some info:
- When you fall asleep, your body becomes relaxed.
- When the tissue of your throat gets relaxed, your airways can become blocked.
- you’re unable to inhale or exhale through this blocked airway and the outcome is that you stop breathing during the night.
- This kind of blockage, in some instances, can occur dozens or even hundreds of times all night.
Generally, symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Your partner has noticed that you sporadically stop breathing at night.
- Headaches when you wake up.
- Feeling tired or fatigued even when you got a full night’s sleep.
- A dry mouth or dry throat when you get up.
- You have a snoring issue.
How to know if your snoring is caused by sleep apnea
Snoring is incredibly common, so how can you tell when it’s normal (and non-harmful) and when it might be sleep apnea? You can generally look out for one of the two manifestations:
- Deep, loud snoring: Light, high pitched snoring noises are produced as a result of a restriction in your airway. Sleep apnea is a consequence of a collapse or near collapse of your airways, and this results in deep, loud snoring.
- Snoring that ends in choking or gasping noises: These choking or gasping sounds are caused by your body struggling to breathe through this airway collapse. It may not even be something you notice, if you have a partner, ask them about these choking or gasping sounds.
Symptoms might vary from person to person, but if you believe that you are developing sleep apnea, it’s essential to speak with us about diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing sleep apnea
It’s not possible to self-diagnose sleep apnea. In most cases, you’ll have to speak with us about setting up a sleep study. We might order one of two types of sleep studies for you:
- Home sleep test: A home sleep test is a simplified sleep study and it includes a device that you can use at home. Instead of coming to a clinic for testing, you connect this device when you’re in your own bed. Airflow, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels are generally tracked with these home sleep studies. The challenge is, these tests can sometimes present unreliable results. And in these situations, you’ll need to go to a clinic for a follow-up sleep study.
- Nocturnal polysomnography: This overnight sleep study is the traditional one we typically think of. A nocturnal polysomnography will take detailed measurements while you sleep. You’ll spend the night sleeping in a special medical suite, hooked up to an array of monitors. Nocturnal polysomnography is a lot more reliable than a home sleep study while maybe a bit more inconvenient.
Typically, one of these diagnostics will either confirm or rule out sleep apnea. In order to rule out potential blockages, you might, in some circumstances, be referred to an Ear-Nose-and-Throat physician.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Once sleep apnea is diagnosed, it’s essential to follow up by finding the appropriate treatment. For most patients, sleep apnea management will depend primarily on the utilization of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. All during the night, this device essentially pushes air into your lungs. This inhibits collapse of the airway and makes sure you keep breathing all night long.
The drawback of CPAP machines is that they can be somewhat uncomfortable. Most people have a positive adjustment time (and better sleep) over a short period of time.
In other, more serious instances of sleep apnea, there are some different solutions. These therapies could include anything from different devices to surgery (or, in some situations, a combination of both). There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep apnea, so be certain to talk to us about what your possibilities might be.
There may be more to it than simple snoring
Sleep apnea is all too easy to ignore and to write off as little more than extra loud snoring. But your health and your quality of life can be affected by your snoring. You will remain healthier and get more restful sleep if you get your hearing diagnosed and treated.