Sleep apnea is a serious condition caused by interrupted breathing during sleep. This condition commonly develops in patients with an underlying cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea causes interference of rapid-eye-movement sleep, which accounts for 80% of sleep. Matthew W. Shawl, MD, specializes in the management of sleep apnea in Union Square.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is the absence of respiratory airflow for about 10 seconds due to decreased oxygenation in arterial blood vessels. Sleep apnea can be caused by central nervous system dysfunction or airway blockage.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea:

1. Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea involves repeated episodes of complete or partial airflow blockage. This condition causes the pressure to increase in the airway making the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder, causing patients to jerk or gasp loudly during sleep.

2. Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea involves the central nervous system. This type of sleep apnea is caused when the brain fails to signal chest muscles to take in air.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Most symptoms of sleep apnea occur when the patient is asleep and might not be noticeable to them. If you want to check for symptoms, it is advised that you record yourself when sleeping or have a sleep partner to check on you.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring
  • Restlessness during sleep, causing daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Sudden awakenings accompanied by loud gasps or choking
  • Subconsciously sleeping with your mouth open to assist in breathing, causing dry mouth or sore throat upon waking up
  • Intellectual impairment, including difficulty in focusing on one task, forgetfulness, and irritability
  • Excessive sweating at night

Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

Risk factors of sleep apnea vary depending on:

  • Gender:  Sleep apnea is more common in men than in women.
  • Age: Although sleep apnea can occur at any age, it is more prevalent in individuals over 40 due to decreased respiratory function.
  • Structural abnormalities such as reduced upper airway diameter, enlarged tonsils, and low-hanging soft palate.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Being inactive can lead to conditions such as obesity, making you prone to developing sleep apnea. Smoking damages your respiratory system putting you at risk of developing sleep apnea.

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Treatment of sleep apnea can involve:

1. Conservative techniques

Conservative techniques are usually used to treat mild cases of sleep apnea.

  • Weight management is essential for overweight people.
  • Individuals with sleep apnea are recommended to avoid using alcohol and sleeping pills; they prolong the apneic episodes.
  • Patients with blocked sinuses or nasal congestion are advised to use nasal sprays and breathing strips to improve airflow and prevent snoring.

2. Mechanical techniques

Mechanical techniques are recommended for patients with mild-moderate sleep apnea. They involve:

  • The use of assisted breathing: Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated using the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure technique, which requires patients to sleep wearing a mask over their nose and mouth. The mask forces air into the airway through constant and continuous pressure. Other oral appliances can be used to prevent the tongue from blocking the airway.
  • Surgery is a type of mechanical therapy that can reduce airflow blockage by fixing the nose and throat’s malformed tissues, for example, enlarged tonsils.  Surgical techniques include somnoplasty, nasal surgery, maxillary/mandibular advancement surgery, and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty.

Sleep apnea poses a threat to your well-being and should be diagnosed and treated in time. Contact Matthew W. Shawl, MD to learn more about the dangers of sleep apnea and schedule your appointment online today.

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Sleep apnea is a serious condition caused by interrupted breathing during sleep. This condition commonly develops in patients with an underlying cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea causes interference of rapid-eye-movement sleep, which accounts for 80% of sleep. Matthew W. Shawl, MD, specializes in the management of sleep apnea in Union...