Sleep Apnea In-Depth
Everyone has the occasional poor night of sleep. You toss, and you turn. You might find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Following a bad night of sleep, you might find that you drag through the day. You are sluggish, and everything feels difficult. However, you go to bed and sleep well again. The next day, everything is back to normal. You wake up feeling rested and refreshed. You have energy, and you can perform at your best.
For millions of Americans, however, a good night of sleep seems like an impossibility. No matter what time you go to bed, or what your bedtime ritual is, you still wake up every morning feeling exhausted. If this sounds like you, you may be living with a condition called sleep apnea. Treasure Valley Oral & Facial Surgery can help.
Is Sleep That Important?
You hear many people make jokes about sleep. They say that they do not need that much to function or that they can get by on little to no sleep and still thrive. They think that sleep is not all that important.
The truth is that sleep is a very important part of life. It does not just sleep though, the quality of your sleep is also crucial. It is a restorative process. As you sleep, your body and mind repair themselves. Cells are repaired. Your immune system is boosted. Your cardiovascular system is recharged. Sleep also helps your mind and body to process everything that happened during the course of the day. After a good night of quality sleep, you can wake up in the morning feeling rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle the day ahead.
What Happens When You Sleep?
On the surface, sleep seems like a fairly simple concept. You close your eyes, you sleep, and you wake up. However, it is not that simple. So, what exactly does happen when you sleep? As you sleep, your body goes through two different cycles. Each cycle of sleep is responsible for different things. Non-rapid eye movement, or NREM, sleep accounts for about 75% to 80% of your sleep. It is during this phase that most health benefits occur. During this phase, tissue growth and repair occurs, as does growth and the release of hormones responsible for growth and development.
Rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep makes up the rest of the 20% to 25% of your sleep. During this phase of sleep, dreaming occurs. It is during this phase that you are also able to process emotions, stresses, and memories. Both phases of sleep alternate several times during the course of the night. It is necessary to complete these phases to get the benefits, restful sleep you need.
Effects of Chronic Poor Sleep
One of the most obvious effects of poor sleep is that you wake up feeling incredibly exhausted. No matter what time you go to bed, no matter if you meditate or practice relaxation techniques before bed, or what other relaxing bedtime rituals you practice, you still feel like you never went to sleep in the first place. You may also notice that your throat is sore or dry and that you have chronic headaches upon waking up. A sore or dry throat can be indicative of snoring, which is another sign of sleep apnea.
When you wake up feeling tired, you drag throughout the rest of your day. You feel sluggish and excessively sleepy. You may even find that you drift off during the day, even while performing tasks that take a significant amount of concentration such as driving. When you are tired, you may find that you are more irritable, or that you have trouble controlling your emotions. You might find that you get angry quicker, or that you cry more easily.
Problems with irritability and controlling emotions can affect your work relationships as well as your relationships as well. Speaking of effects on your personal life, feeling tired all of the time may mean that you do not want to go out with friends or family after work. You may not want to do things on the weekends. As a result, your personal life can suffer significantly. Those who do not sleep well are also at a greater risk of suffering depression.
When poor sleep goes untreated for long enough, the condition can have a severe impact on your overall health as well. Untreated sleep apnea can result in high blood pressure or hypertension. Your blood-oxygen levels may decrease. Your risks for developing heart disease, diabetes, and suffering a stroke increase.
Poor sleep can affect your digestive system. When you do not sleep, inflammation in your body increases, increasing your risk for issues such as IBS and Crohn’s Disease. It can impact your immunity, making it difficult for your body to effectively fight off infections and illnesses. Poor sleep can also lead to weight gain. This is because your body cannot regulate hormones properly.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects your sleep. It is a condition that affects millions of Americans across the country. When you have sleep apnea, you have what is called apneic events as you sleep. An apneic event is a cessation, or pause, in your breathing. These pauses are brief, lasting only several seconds. In some cases, they can last as long as 90 seconds.
Every time your breathing stops, your brain wakes up so that it can start your breathing again. This disrupts your sleep. Not only that, but every time you fall back to sleep, your body has to restart its sleep cycles all over again. These apneic events occur several times during the course of the night. The number of pauses you experience depends upon the severity of your condition.
For those with mild sleep apnea, your breathing pauses between 5 and 14 times per sleeping hour. If you have severe sleep apnea, your breathing pauses more than 30 times per hour. Moreover, you are generally completely unaware that any of this is going on. As a result, you may be quite confused when you wake up in the morning feeling incredibly exhausted after you thought was a full night of sleep.
There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. Also called OSA, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is something blocking your airway as you sleep. This could be loose tissue in your throat, extra fatty tissue, or your tongue. There is also central sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is a bit different. It occurs when there is a miscommunication between your brain and the breathing muscles. These miscommunications are what cause your breathing to stop temporarily.
Who is At Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Anyone can suffer sleep apnea, including men, women, and even children. However, there are certain factors that can make your risk higher than others. While anyone can develop sleep apnea, men are typically at a greater risk than women.
Additionally, older adults are more likely than younger individuals to develop the condition. This is because the muscles and tissues become laxer as you age. As a result, there is a greater risk for loose tissue blocking the airway. You are also at an increased risk if you have a family history of sleep apnea. If a close blood relative, such as a parent, has suffered sleep apnea, there is a higher chance of you suffering from it as well.
Individuals who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk. This is because of extra fatty tissue near the entrance of the throat. Having a large tongue or tonsils can obstruct the airway and disrupt proper breathing while you sleep. Nasal obstructions, such as allergies or a deviated septum, can also cause complications and obstruct the airway. You may also be at an increased risk for developing sleep apnea if you have a condition such as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux.
What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Most individuals who have sleep apnea are completely unaware that they have it. This is because you are unaware of how often your brain wakes up to restart your breathing. You may only be aware of the fact that you wake up feeling incredibly exhausted, no matter what you do.
Waking up tired is just one symptom of sleep apnea. It is not uncommon for those with sleep apnea to snore. However, you may not even know that you snore unless someone points it out to you. Waking up with a sore or dry throat can indicate snoring. You may also wake up with chronic headaches as well.
Those with sleep apnea may feel excessively tired all day long. You may feel like you are dragging through your day. You might find it difficult to concentrate. You may also find that you doze off during the day, even when performing important tasks that require your full attention, such as driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep apnea can also cause irritability, mood swings, and difficulty with short term memory.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
To diagnose sleep apnea, you need to have a sleep study done. This is a test that is done in a sleep clinic. There are sleep studies that can be done at home as well. These are modified versions of the tests done in a clinic. A sleep study is called a polysomnogram.
Before you go to sleep, you are hooked up to machines. Electrodes and wires are attached to your face and scalp. The electrodes transmit electric signals sent by your brain and muscles, and these signals are recorded. A belt around your waist functions to monitor your breathing. Other information that may be recorded includes your heart rate, your blood-oxygen levels, your blood pressure, your brain activity, your eye movements, and more.
After your sleep study is complete, the recorded information is then read and interpreted by a certified sleep specialist. The specialist can diagnose sleep apnea or another sleep-related condition. They can also recommend treatment.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Sleep Apnea
There are a variety of non-surgical treatments for sleep apnea. For some, lifestyle changes are all that is needed. These changes may include quitting alcohol consumption, losing weight, or changing sleep positions.
A common treatment for sleep apnea is C-PAP or continuous positive airway pressure. This treatment involves the use of a machine. You wear a small mask over your nose, or your nose and mouth, while you sleep. The machine delivers a continuous stream of air, which keeps your airway open.
Another common treatment is oral appliance therapy. This treatment provides an alternative to C-PAP and may be recommended for those who cannot, or do not want to, use the C-PAP. This treatment involves the use of an oral device made from an impression of your mouth. The device, similar to a sports mouth guard, is worn over your teeth while you sleep. It functions to keep your lower jaw forward and keep your oral tissues away from your throat to prevent blockages.
Surgical Treatments for Sleep Apnea
For those with severe sleep apnea, or for those who have not found relief with non-surgical treatments, surgery may be the only solution. There are a variety of different surgeries that may be recommended depending upon your specific situation. A UUUP is the most common surgery for sleep apnea. This treatment involves removing excess tissue from your pharynx and soft palate. If you still have your tonsils, these are also removed.
Other surgeries that may be performed include tongue advancement, a hyoid advancement, and nasal surgery. Tongue advancement involves moving the main muscle in the tongue. A cut is made in the jaw and the bone to which the muscle is attached moved forward. A titanium plate helps to secure it in place. A hyoid advancement involves moving the hyoid bone to widen the airway and prevent collapse. Nasal surgery may be recommended in the event of a nasal obstruction such as a deviated septum or valve collapse. After surgery, your airway should be clear and no obstructions present. With your airway clear, you can finally breathe normally while you sleep.
With the right treatment for sleep apnea, you can finally get the restful sleep you have been longing for. For more information, contact Treasure Valley Oral & Facial Surgery today at (208) 994-6227.