How Many Types of Sleep Apnea are there?
There are 2 different types. The most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This occurs when the airflow through a person’s airway is blocked even though the person is still trying to breathe. Central apnea is less common, and happens when the brain fails to send the correct signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations.
How Dangerous is Sleep Apnea?
Patients with sleep apnea may experience an obstructed airway from 5 to more than 100 times per hour and not be aware of it, but still suffer the effects. While it may not seem like a pressing danger because the apneic eventually awakens slightly to take the necessary breath, the lack of oxygen during these obstructive events can have lasting health consequences. When the airway collapses, breathing stops, and the body experiences a significant drop in oxygen saturation from 95% to as low as 50%. This oxygen starvation can cause countless serious health problems. That is why sleep apnea has been linked with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, and strokes. In its more severe form, it is associated with nocturnal sudden death. Unfortunately, only 5 to 10% of the people with sleep apnea even know they have it making it one of the most unrecognized, unreported, undiagnosed, and untreated medical conditions among Americans.
Who is Most Susceptible to Having Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, and it is estimated that 18 million Americans have it. It is twice as common in males as in females, and more common in older adults (40+) than in younger adults and children. But in post-menopausal women it is just as common as in males of the same age because of naturally occurring hormonal changes. Individuals who snore loudly, are overweight, or have high blood pressure are at the highest risk. Other risk factors are drinking, smoking, use of sedatives or tranquilizers and a family history. There is a genetic component to this disorder as it often occurs in families.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Someone in My Family Suffers from Sleep Apnea?
Call our office and set up an appointment for us to see you. We can do an initial screening that could save you some time and money. At the time of your visit, we will have you fill out a short form and ask you some pertinent questions concerning your condition. This is a no charge consultation. If, at that time, it is obvious you have sleep apnea we will refer you to a sleep specialist. Should we feel that it is not clear, but there is a real suspicion that sleep apnea is present, we will give you the opportunity to take an overnight sleep test in your own home. By reading the results the next day we can determine if indeed sleep apnea is present and if so then refer you to the sleep specialist. After seeing you he may order a hospital sleep study to determine the exact nature and extent of your condition. Upon reviewing the results he will make the most appropriate recommendation which may involve an oral appliance that we can custom make for you.
Sleep Apnea in Children
The primary cause of sleep apnea in children is enlargement of the adenoids and tonsils. But often a major contributory factor is constricted upper and lower jaws that help restrict the amount of air that flows through the airway.
Children with sleep apnea do not get sound sleep, and they are receiving less oxygen to the brain at night. This can have very serious effects on a child’s intellect and behavior. Recent studies have shown that chronic poor sleep results in poor school performance, difficulty with focused attention, low threshold to express negative emotion, hyperactivity, irritability, easy frustration, and difficulty controlling impulses and emotions. These symptoms have been shown to be reversible once the sleep apnea has been treated. Unfortunately, too often these symptoms have been misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and therefore, the child is receiving the wrong treatment.
- Snoring with associated mouth breathing
- Restlessness during the night
- Frequent changing positions to those promoting airway patency (like hyperextending the neck)
- Sleep walking
- Loud gasping respirations
- Unusual chest movements
The first order of treatment is normally the removal of the enlarged tonsils and adenoids by the ENT physician. To complement this surgery and for a complete resolution of the symptoms, many times expansion of the maxillary (upper) arch is necessary. This will increase the size of the nasal passages. This procedure is done by an orthodontist and it is something we have been doing in our office for 38 years, and it is most effective.
What is Snoring?
Snoring is the sound generated when air moves through a partially obstructed airway during sleep. While it can be harmless (although very annoying to listen to), it may also be a sign of a much more serious medical condition called obstructive sleep apnea.
During normal breathing, air passes through the nose and past the flexible structures in the back of the throat, namely the tongue, soft palate, and uvula. While you are awake muscles hold the airway open, but when you fall asleep, these muscles relax, but normally the airway remains open.
Snoring occurs when the structures in the throat relax enough to cause the airway to narrow and partially obstruct the flow of air. As the air tries to pass through these obstructions, the throat structures vibrate causing the sound we know as snoring. Large tonsils, a long soft palate and uvula and excess fatty deposits all contribute to airway narrowing.
Snoring not only affects the health and well-being of the person snoring, but also that of his or her bed partner often leading to separate bedrooms, marital discord, and sometimes divorce.