We’re accustomed to thinking of snoring as a nuisance, something that annoys you and, maybe, costs your partner a good night’s sleep every once in a while. However, a condition called sleep apnea can often be the cause of snoring.
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that can cause you to stop breathing when you’re sleeping. While it’s a relatively common condition, sleep apnea can obstruct respiration and lead to significant health issues, so it should be taken seriously.
Sleep apnea – what is it?
Sleep apnea is, formally, a breathing ailment. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea here are some facts:
- When you go to sleep, your body gets very relaxed.
- The relaxed tissue blocks your airway.
- During the night, you stop breathing because you’re unable to inhale or exhale through this blockage.
- In some instances of sleep apnea, this blockage can take place dozens or hundreds of times every night.
Usually, symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Even when you get a sound night’s sleep, you’re still tired.
- Headaches when you wake up.
- Your partner is noticing that you sometimes stop breathing at night.
- You have a snoring problem.
- When you wake up, you have a dry mouth.
Is your snoring related to sleep apnea?
Some instances of snoring are normal and not harmful and others are caused by sleep apnea, but how can you determine which one you’re experiencing? Typically, there are two presentations you can look out for:
- Loud, deep snoring: Usually, snoring is the result of a restriction in your airways, generating light, high-pitched sounds. Sleep apnea is related to a collapse or near collapse of your airways, and this leads to deep, loud snoring.
- Snoring that ends in gasping or choking noises: In this situation, your airway collapses and your body detects the gasping and choking sounds are the result of your body straining to breathe. It might not even be something you observe, if you have a partner, ask them about these choking or gasping noises.
If you are experiencing these or similar symptoms, it’s time to contact us for an appointment so we can help you formulate an exact diagnosis and treatment plan.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
It’s not possible to self-diagnose sleep apnea. We might have to schedule a sleep study in some cases. We may order one of two types of sleep studies for you:
- Home sleep test: A home sleep test is a simple sleep study and it comes with a device that you can use at home. You use this device while in your own bed instead of coming into the clinic for testing. Generally, home sleep tests will track heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and airflow. 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 normally think of. A nocturnal polysomnography will take detailed measurements throughout the entirety of your sleeping experience. You will be connected to a variety of monitors while you sleep in a special medical room. While more inconvenient, nocturnal polysomnography is much more dependable than home sleep tests.
Normally, one of these diagnostics will either verify or rule out sleep apnea. In some situations, you may be referred to an Ear-Nose-and-Throat doctor to rule out a possible blockage.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Once sleep apnea is diagnosed, it’s important to follow up by finding the proper treatment. For most people, sleep apnea management will rely primarily on the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This device uses positive pressure to, effectively, push air into your lungs all night long. This helps your breathing during the night and helps stop your airways from collapsing.
The downside of CPAP machines is that they can be somewhat uncomfortable. Most people have a positive adjustment period (and more restful sleep) over a short period of time.
In other, more serious cases of sleep apnea, there are some different solutions. These therapies could include anything from different devices to surgery (or, in some cases, a combo of both). There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to sleep apnea, so be certain to talk to us about what your options may be.
There might be more to it than simple snoring
Sleep apnea is all too easy to disregard and to write off as little more than extra loud snoring. But that snoring may be negatively affecting your health and your quality of life. Diagnosing and managing your sleep apnea can help you get better sleep and stay healthier.