What is Sleep Apnea?

How do You Treat the Illness?

Do you fall into a deep sleep and a member of your household tells you that you stop breathing while you are sleeping?  The it is time for you to get a referral from  your physician for a sleep study.

Sleep apnea allows one to fall asleep normally but once asleep, the individual stops breathing as the muscles in the throat relax and collapse into the airways.  The body then reacts by sending a signal to the brain indicating the airway is temporarily blocked.  The lack of breath causes you to come out of the deep sleep to start breathing again.  This cycle will continue to repeat itself throughout the night, potentially over 50 times per hour.  Each of the episodes will last up to 10 seconds.

Most of the time, the individual with the illness is not aware of these occurrences and they do not understand why they are so tired throughout the day after they believed they had a good night's sleep.

There are several types of the illness.  The most common form of the illness is obstructive sleep apnea also known as OSA.  Another type is mixed sleep apnea, where the patient who has OSA also suffers from central sleep apnea.  Estimates are that 18-20% of the adult population in the United States suffer from OSA.  If left untreated, the illness can become life threatening and in rare cases become fatal.  The illness has been linked to heart disease, stroke, pulmonary hypertension and systemic hypertension.

If you have OSA determined by a sleep study physician/specialist, your treatment will include a determination how to set up positive airway pressure(PAP).  PAP is a non-invasive form of treatment.  Normally you will get a machine which delivers a constant flow of air through a mask, which would be worn while sleeping.  The air flow needed results will be discussed by sleep technician during the overnight study.

In addition to the machine, there are a number of dental devices if your illness is a milder or more moderate form.

Medication is not generally used for this illness as the treatments have only had limited success.

Surgery is also an option but not used very often.  Those with OSA may have the option of uvulopalatophrayngoplasty,  somnoplasty, corrective jaw surgery, palatal implants and tracheostomy.

When I first found out that I had sleep apnea, I wanted to know more about the medical condition.  Well, I became more concerned and determined to do whatever I needed to control it.

People with this sleep disorder generally find the quality of life improved with  the machine.  I am a CPAP user and I believe the mask has been a real asset to better sleep and health.  It did take some time to get used to the mask on the face but I am definitely more rest with my complete night's rest than the disjointed sleep I had before the mask and machine.