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Sleep ApneaStamford, CT

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes a person to stop breathing intermittently while sleeping. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million American adults are suffering from sleep apnea. If you feel drowsy after a full night’s rest or snore loudly, it could be sleep apnea. Patients suffering from sleep apnea will experience breathing pauses or shallow breaths while sleeping. The breath pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur more than 30 times per hour.

The patient will resume normal breathing after the pause, which is often indicated by a snort or choking sound. Sleep apnea is usually a chronic condition and may cause people to stir out of deep sleep into a light sleep.

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Types of sleep apnea

Significant examples of sleep apnea include:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common and occurs when the throat muscles collapse.
  • Central sleep apnea, which happens when the brain fails to send the right signals to the muscles to regulate breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome, otherwise known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is a situation where the patient has both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Causes of sleep apnea

    Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the muscles located at the back of the throat collapse. These muscles hold the uvula, soft palate, tonsils and the inner walls of the throat and tongue apart.

    When the muscles collapse, the patient’s air passage narrows or closes and makes it difficult to inhale oxygen. This situation reduces oxygen levels in the blood. Once the brain senses the breath stoppage, it stirs the person out of sleep to reopen the air passage. Most people do not recollect waking up since it is usually short.

    The air passages can be blocked entirely or partially during sleep due to the following factors:

  • The muscles of the throat and tongue relaxing abnormally.
  • Larger tongue and tonsils than the opening of the windpipe.
  • Obesity, causing extra tissue to thicken the walls of the trachea and tighten the inner area of the windpipe.
  • Aging, because throat muscles collapse easily in old age.

  • Symptoms of sleep apnea

    Patients with sleep apnea usually do not know about the disorder or their interrupted sleep. A common sign of sleep apnea is loud and repeated snoring. The noise usually increases when the patient is lying on their back and is milder when they sleep on their side. Nevertheless, not everyone with sleep apnea snores. Most patients with sleep apnea suffer from excessive daytime drowsiness. Other signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Irritable mood, depression, mood swings or personality changes
  • Memory, retention and concentration issues
  • Frequent urination during the night
  • Morning headache or migraine
  • Dry mouth or sore throat after waking up

  • You should contact your primary care physician if you or your partner notice:

  • Loud snoring that disturbs others
  • Breath shortage, gasping for air or choking
  • Recurrent breath pauses while sleeping
  • Excessive daytime fatigue, which may make the person sleep at work, while driving or while watching TV
  • Diagnosing sleep apnea

    A primary care doctor can make a diagnosis from the signs experienced by the patient. However, a referral to a sleep disorder center may be vital to allow the sleep specialist to check if further examination is necessary. Most examinations entail monitoring the patient’s sleep and body functions while they sleep. Tests for detecting sleep apnea include:

  • Home sleep tests: This usually requires measuring the patient’s blood oxygen level, heart rate, airflow and breathing patterns.
  • Nocturnal polysomnography: In this test, the patient will be connected to a device that observes brain, heart and lung function, breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels and arm and leg movements during sleep.

  • If the test results indicate a problem, the doctor may recommend treatment without additional tests. However, the home tests are not as effective as the polysomnography test. The doctor may refer a sleep apnea patient to an ear, nose and throat expert to ensure there is no inhibition in the nose or throat. They may also need to see a cardiologist or neurologist to verify the origin of the condition.

    Treating sleep apnea

    If the condition is minor, the doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as weight loss or smoking cessation. Also, if the patient has nasal allergies, the physician may suggest treating a particular allergy. If these treatments do not help, or if the sleep apnea is moderate to severe, other procedures will be used, including a CPAP machine: a device that keeps the airway open during sleep using a constant stream of air to assist breathing, and surgical procedures to remove tissues that may be blocking the airways. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, CPAP is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea and is suitable for all cases.

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    Pearl Dental is located at 1055 Summer St #3 Stamford, CT 06905.

    (203) 717-0151