You May Have a Sleep Disorder If...
Wake up refreshed? Alert throughout the day? If not, you may have a sleep disorder.
Your patient and empathic bed partner, with velvet hammer high overhead,
notices that you suddenly cease not only your snoring, but your breathing as
well. You actually stop breathing, for 10, then 20, then 30 seconds. Then, to
his or her surprise and dismay, you begin to gasp for air, as if it were your
last breath. This cycle repeats itself over and over, all night long. For your
part, you may be totally unaware of all of that, as the alarm clock rings. You
may wake with a dry mouth, a headache, and feeling hungover. You may also be
sleepy during the day, have significant memory loss, concentration, attention,
mood and other related problems. This rather horrifying scenario is typical for
a disorder called sleep apnea.
There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive (OSA) and
central (CSA). In OSA the throat collapses during sleep, preventing the flow of
air to your lungs. As your oxygen levels decrease, your brain gets an alert
message to "wake up and breath." These apnea episodes may occur 20 to
60 to 100 or more times per hour.
CSA is far less common, occurring in less than 10% of cases.
Here, the brain fails to send a signal to breath. This can occur in various
heart and neurological disorders.
Present in about 7% of the population, the prevalence of
sleep apnea is on par with diabetes and asthma. It is also a primary risk
factor for high blood pressure. Fortunately, with the proper diagnosis, it can
be treated quite effectively.
There are three categories of treatment for obstructive sleep
- Physical or mechanical therapy
- Non-specific therapy
Which therapy is used depends on your specific medical, lab,
and physical exams and other findings.
Physical or mechanical therapies only work at the time
they are properly used. Apnea episodes return when they are not utilized.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common
treatment. With the use of a snugly fitted face mask or nasal plug, air is
blown into the nasal passages, forcing the airway open and allowing air to flow
freely. The pressure is continuous and constant and is adjusted so that it is
just enough to open the airway.
Dental or oral appliances reposition the lower jaw and tongue,
moving them outward, creating something akin to a pronounced
"underbite." Used in mild to moderate sleep apnea, this physically
opens the airway, allowing the free flow of air. They are custom-made devices
usually fitted by a dentist or orthodontist.