Sleep apnea is defined as the involuntary cessation of breathing during sleep. Of the three types of sleep apnea – obstructive, central and mixed – obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue of the palate collapses and falls against the back of the throat, effectively blocking the airway.
• One in three adult Americans is affected by obstructive sleep apnea in the United States alone.
• More than 90% of people with sleep apnea go undiagnosed.
• Sleep apnea occurs in 25% of men and 10% of women.
Sleep apnea symptoms include:
• Loud snoring
• Stopped breathing during sleep
• Drowsy driving
• Waking up short of breath
• Waking up frequently to urinate
• Chest pain during sleep
Sleep apnea affects more than just an individual’s sleep and quality of life. Over time, it becomes a significant risk factor for a number of serious conditions, including:
• High blood pressure
• Type II diabetes
• Heart attack/cardiac arrest
• Possible death
• Proper diagnosis must be confirmed by a medical professional and requires a sleep test – either in a lab or at home.
• The test monitors sleep stages and cycles to identify any disruption in the pattern of sleep. Sensors affixed to the head and body track vital signs like blood oxygen levels and heart and breathing rates, as well as snoring and body movement.
• Sleep apnea is characterized by stoppage of breathing for 10 seconds or more with five or more episodes per hour during sleep.
• The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP), by which the airway is kept open with a steady stream of air delivered through a mask.
• Dental appliance – intended to shift lower jaw forward to keep airway open
• Hypoglossal nerve stimulation – implantable device delivers stimulation to open airway muscles during sleep
A variety of lifestyle changes can also help:
• Weight loss
• Limited/no use of alcohol
• Stop smoking
• Side sleeping instead of back