What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you stop breathing for a few seconds when you’re asleep. This happens repeatedly throughout the night, so you may get poor-quality sleep and wake up in the morning feeling very tired.
There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your upper airway gets blocked by throat muscles that relax and cover the air passages.
Central sleep apnea is more unusual and is due to your brain not sending out the signal to breathe when you’re asleep.
It’s not always easy to tell when you have sleep apnea, and many people don’t realize they have it because they only stop breathing when they’re asleep. It’s often a partner who notices and points it out.
Other indications you might have sleep apnea include:
- Loud, continual snoring
- Gasping for air
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Attention and concentration problems
- Dry mouth or headaches when you wake
- Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido
- Waking up frequently to urinate
Sleep apnea diagnosis usually requires you to complete a sleep study, where experts monitor your sleep to see if you stop breathing and how often, and how it’s affecting your blood oxygen levels.
What causes sleep apnea?
Conditions that can cause sleep apnea include:
- Large tonsils
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chiari malformations
- Myasthenia gravis
- Heart or kidney failure
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Down syndrome
Obesity is one of the most common causes of sleep apnea, and it can also make sleep apnea worse if you have other risk factors.
For example, people who have hypothyroidism may develop sleep apnea because they don’t have high enough levels of thyroid hormones in their systems, which can affect the area of your brain and nerves and muscles involved in breathing.
Hypothyroidism also lowers metabolism, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Using a breathing device called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is often effective in keeping your airway open when you’re asleep. Losing weight and physical therapy can also help.
Surgery might be advisable if your sleep apnea is severe and isn’t improving despite using a CPAP machine, or if there’s an obstruction such as large tonsils blocking your airway.
The surgical team at Turnquest Surgical Solutions can carry out tonsillectomy to remove the blockage or help enlarge your upper airway by moving your jaws forward.
In severe, potentially life-threatening cases they may perform a tracheostomy to allow you to breathe through a hole in your throat during the night.
Find out more about surgical treatments for severe sleep apnea by calling Turnquest Surgical Solutions or booking an appointment online.