Sleep Apnea Symptoms & Treatment

Problems with sleep apnea can include insomnia, morning headaches and snoring.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that involves repeated breathing interruptions during sleep that may occur hundreds of times each night. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form of this disorder, and involves a blocked or collapsed airway during sleep that may result in breathing abnormalities. This can be the result of a deviated septum, turbinate hypertrophy, enlarged tonsils, an elongated soft palate or a combination of any of these abnormalities.  Central sleep apnea is less common, and involves a malfunction in which the brain doesn’t send the proper signals to control breathing during sleep.

Patients who are overweight, have high blood pressure, are older, smoke or have a family history of sleep apnea may have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Many patients with sleep apnea may not be aware that they have this condition, as breathing interruptions are not usually remembered upon waking. However, patients with sleep apnea may experience:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Snoring
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Waking up to shortness of breath

A polysomnogram sleep study either at a sleep center or at home can diagnose sleep apnea.  This test records several body functions during sleep, including brain activity, eye movement, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels,heart rate and rhythm, breathing rate and rhythm, the flow of air through your mouth and nose, snoring, body muscle movements, and chest and belly movement.  Once the results have been interpreted, Dr. Lee can create a customized treatment plan for your individual condition.

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

There are many different treatment options available for sleep apnea, depending on each patient's individual case, including oral appliance therapy, nasal sprays CPAP, and surgery.

Many patients can experience significant results from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or adjustable airway pressure devices, which are used while sleeping. Connected to a tube and a mask that covers the nose, the pressure generated by the CPAP splints the structures in the back of the throat, holding the airway open during sleep.

While treatment often begins with conservative techniques, many patients require surgery in order to effectively treat their condition. Surgery for sleep apnea aims to remove the excess tissue from the nose or throat that causes this condition. This can be done through procedures such as:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) - surgery that treats obstructive sleep apnea by tightening the tissue in the throat and palate to expand the passageways.

We will determine which treatment plan is best for your individual condition. Patients can take certain steps to handle symptoms of sleep apnea on their own, including losing excess weight, sleeping on your side and using a saline nasal spray to keep your nasal passages open at night.

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