Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes you to have pauses or shallow breathing during sleep. It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, narrowing or closing the airway as you breathe in. This can lower the level of oxygen in the blood and alert the brain, which in turn partially awakens you from sleep so you can reopen your airway. This awakening is often so brief that you don’t remember it. Another effect of a blocked airway during sleep is loud snoring as you struggle to force in enough air.
The pauses in breathing caused by sleep apnea typically last between 10 to 20 seconds and can occur hundreds of times a night, jolting you out of your natural sleeping rhythm. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor; you spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep, making you feel tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.
The lack of oxygen you’re to our heart and body can also have negative long-term consequences for your health including:
- Increase the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
- Increased risk of heart failure. (Congestive Heart Failure)
- Arrhythmias (or irregular heartbeats for example, Atrial Fibrillation)
- Increased chance of work-related or driving accidents
- Behavioural symptoms including moodiness, depression, belligerence, and a decrease in attentiveness and motivation
Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can’t detect sleep apnea during routine office visits, but it can be diagnosed using a home sleep apnea test. With treatment you can control symptoms and get the sleep you need to get back on track and start feeling refreshed!
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Visiting a Sleep Specialist
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can be diagnosed using an in-lab sleep study or a home sleep apnea test – HST or (Level III Ambulatory Sleep Study). Our Team at Quality Sleep Care can help you find out if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and help you back to feeling rested and at your best.
Before consulting a sleep care specialist there are some thing you can do to help make an assessment and determine whether or not you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. If it is possible have someone observe you while you sleep and note if you snore or not or if you make choking noises while you sleep, which is a sign you may have sleep apnea.You can also do this quick Quiz (STOP-BANG QUIZ).
It may also be helpful to keep a sleep diary for a few weeks. A sleep diary simply means recording the time you go to sleep at night, if you take any naps and make notes recording anything out of the ordinary. This can help your sleep specialist to identify factors contributing to your troubles sleeping.
Home Sleep Apnea Test or HST also known as an Level III Ambulatory Sleep Study
A lot of patients opt for a Home Sleep Test or (HST). A home sleep apnea test is a small monitor which gathers data such as your breathing movements, heart rate and oxygen levels while you sleep in your own bed. Our qualified sleep technicians will show you how to use a home sleep apnea test in order to find out if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. It is good to remember that while there are many apps and sleep tracking devices that claim to detect sleep problems, their results are often unreliable and are no substitute for a doctor referred sleep study with the results that are interpreted by a qualified sleep specialist.
If you think you may suffer from sleep apnea there are a few things to look for that may help you determine if you should contact Quality Sleep Care.
If you have ever unintentionally fallen asleep during the day, frequently feel fatigued or suffer from insomnia? Sleep apnea may be the underlying cause. Some common indicators of obstructive sleep apnea are waking from sleep with a choking sound, gasping for air during the night, or waking with a headache or from loud snoring.
Certain people are at higher risk to develop sleep apnea such as males with necks that are 43cm (17 inches) or larger in circumference or females with necks larger than 16 inches as well as people with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater. People being treated for high blood pressure and anyone with a family history of sleep apnea may also be at risk of developing the disorder.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that needs to be treated.
Your certified sleep care specialist can help you find a plan that works for you. Your plan may include any combination of these treatments:
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure): CPAP is a machine that uses a steady stream of air to gently keep your airway open throughout the night to help you breathe normally. You sleep with a small mask connected to a hose that is attached to a machine kept at your bedside. CPAP is considered the Gold Standard Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Lifestyle: Your physician may recommend lifestyle changes that can help you mitigate your sleep apnea symptoms. Behavioural changes such as quitting smoking or not drinking alcohol may also improve sleep apnea symptoms.
Weight Management: In some cases weight loss can help improve or eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms if you are overweight.
Positional Therapy: Positional therapy is a behavioural strategy to treat positional sleep apnea. Some people have sleep apnea primarily while sleeping in certain positions, such as on their back. In these cases breathing often returns to normal or is improved when the person is sleeping on the side. Positional therapy may involve wearing a special device around your waist or back that keeps you from sleeping on your back or supine. Positional therapy can be used alone or together with another sleep apnea treatment.
Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT): An oral appliance is a device that fits in your mouth over your teeth while you are asleep. The device prevents the airway from collapsing so that you can breathe when you are asleep. Some patients prefer sleeping with an oral appliance to a CPAP machine. Oral appliance therapy is recommended for patients with mild to moderate apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP. A downside to using an oral appliance or Split to treat sleep apnea is that if it is not professionally fit using the device can lead to muscle pains in your jaw or damaged teeth. Also, there is limited ability for the device to be checked once you have it so there is no real tracking to see how well it is working. In addition if you have insurance coverage and you choose to use it to pay for your Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) or Split then later decide you would prefer to be treated with CPAP you will have already used up your insurance benefits for the OAT so this is something to keep in mind.
Surgery: Surgery is usually only an option after other treatments have failed. Generally, at least a three-month trial of other treatment options is suggested before considering surgery. However, for those few people with certain jaw structure problems, it may be a good first option. You should talk to an ENT specialist in order to find out if you would be a good candidate for surgery to treat your Obstructive Sleep Apnea.