Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that affects many people. The condition causes you to have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleeping. This sleeping disorder may last from several seconds to several minutes and may usually occur 5 to 30 times per hour. When sleep apnea occurs, it often moves the person from a deep sleep into light sleep, which causes the person to feel tired or restless during the day due to poor quality of sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: central (CSA), obstructive (OSA), and complex sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when breathing is interrupted due to lack of respiratory effort. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction in the airway that causes interruptions in your breathing. Men below the age of 50 are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than females, but this becomes more balanced for both genders after the age of 50.
Long Term Implications of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea may cause serious complications such as hypertension, heart failure, heart rhythm disturbances, atherosclerotic heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, insulin resistance, and even death. Some of the possible effects of sleep apnea may also include depression, anxiety, memory problems, and various intestinal problems.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Though most people may not be aware that they have sleep apnea, there are various subjective and objective methods in diagnosing and evaluating sleep apnea. One of the subjective methods is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Ranging from 0 to 3, where 0 indicates that the person is least likely to fall asleep and 3 indicates that the person will most likely fall asleep, you rate the probability that you may fall asleep during specific activities. After ranking each activity, the sum of the rankings is calculated. The patient is interviewed to determine his/her medical history and undergoes a physical examination to determine the possible airway collapse. An objective method in determining sleep apnea is through a polysomnography. During a polysomnography, a technician observes a person sleeping and monitors the patient’s brain waves, eye movements, muscle activity, oral and nasal airflow, chest and abdominal movement, blood oxygen levels, and loudness of snoring in order to determine the severity of the sleep apnea condition.
There are several ways to cure sleep apnea through non-surgical and surgical means. One of the non-surgical options is the application of a dental appliance that holds the jaw and tongue forward and the palate up which prevents blockage in the airway. The selection of appropriate surgical procedure depends on the specific cause of sleep apnea.