Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s best characterized by pauses in your breathing during sleep, which can potentially lead to further complications and other conditions developing.
While sleep apnea is a serious condition, it isn’t considered curable. However, it’s important to note that it’s considered highly treatable and that with proper care the symptoms can be effectively managed. By following the advice of your doctor, you can minimize the effects of sleep apnea on your life.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. This is caused by the muscles at the back of your throat failing to keep your airways open while you sleep, causing your breathing to stop and start again repeatedly throughout the night. As a result, the levels of oxygen in your blood can drop, and you partially or fully wake up to breathe.
These mini-episodes of waking up can happen any number of times during the night and can drastically interfere with your quality of sleep. This can lead to snoring throughout the night and waking up feeling tired, even if you slept without interruption.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are several factors that come into play with sleep apnea, and they vary depending on the type a person is dealing with. When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea, it is typically due to one of the following:
- Biological differences: If a person is born with some form of abnormality in this part of their body, like a larger tongue, larger tonsils, or a smaller jaw, it can affect how their airways operate while they sleep.
- Congestion: Whether it’s caused by allergies, a dusty environment, or medication, congestion can create difficulty breathing through the nose and force a person to breathe through their mouth, increasing the risk of OSA
- Body mass index (BMI): If a person has experienced weight gain, excess fat around the neck and throat can put pressure on the airway and cause it to narrow or close during sleep.
- Tobacco use: This can cause inflammation and swelling in the airways, forcing them to close.
- Alcohol or sedatives: These cause the muscles in the throat to relax.
It’s also possible that OSA could be genetic. If a close relative suffers from sleep apnea, you’re about 50% more likely to develop it yourself. However, not every person with OSA suffers from all the symptoms above.
Is Sleep Apnea Curable?
Right now, there is no cure for sleep apnea. But this doesn’t mean it can’t be treated. The most common treatments for sleep apnea include:
- CPAP machines: This is a mask connected to a machine that provides you with a continuous stream of pressurized air to help you breathe while you sleep.
- Oral appliances: These are similar to sports mouthguards. These appliances hold the jaw and tongue forward while you sleep to help keep your airways open.
- Lifestyle changes: As sleep apnea can be caused by tobacco and alcohol usage, it can be treated to an extent by avoiding these substances.
- Weight loss: By losing excess weight, you may be able to reduce the pressure on your throat when lying on your back.
In some situations, surgery may be suggested as a treatment option for sleep apnea. By removing the excess tissue from the throat or repairing structural issues, it may be easier for your airways to remain open.
How to Best Treat Sleep Apnea
The best way to treat sleep apnea greatly depends on your specific needs and circumstances. For some people, simply reducing their alcohol or tobacco intake could be enough to lower the risk of OSA. For others, surgery or assisted breathing devices may be required to manage their sleep apnea.
It’s extremely important to seek the advice of a medical professional when considering ways to treat your sleep apnea. In some cases, a sleep study may be suggested so that the exact cause of your sleep problems can be determined.
It’s best to speak with your doctor, as proper diagnosis and treatment can go a long way in helping manage your OSA.
Visit Us at Sleep Apnea Clinic
Here at Sleep Apnea Clinic, we understand how important your sleep really is. Dr. Saleema Adatia and her team are here to help you take the first steps toward improving your sleep. To discuss options for treating your sleep apnea, schedule an appointment today!