Do you wake up with a dry mouth or a headache? Do you experience daytime tiredness and irritability? Is your partner complaining about your excessive snoring during the night?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it could be a sign that you have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to a variety of health problems. If you have sleep apnea, you may be wondering if it will improve by itself or if you need professional treatment.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about sleep apnea, whether or not it can be cured, and what types of sleep apnea treatments are available.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes your breathing to stop and start frequently during sleep. This can happen many times throughout the night and cause you to wake up frequently while you are sleeping. Sleep apnea occurs when your throat muscles relax too much and block your airway when you try to breathe in or out.
It’s one of the most common sleep disorders, but it often goes undiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of other health problems.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. In some cases, people can have both central and obstructive sleep apnea, which is then called complex sleep apnea syndrome, or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea and occurs when physical blockage prevents airflow through the nose or mouth into the lungs.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain stops sending signals to breathe properly during sleep.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax, which causes your airway to close. When this happens, you won’t be able to breathe properly which can cause you to choke, cough, or briefly wake up in order to get air.
Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea. It occurs when your brain doesn’t transmit the proper signals to your breathing muscles, meaning your body isn’t making the effort to breathe when you sleep. Like obstructive sleep apnea, this can cause you to wake up in order to breathe properly.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone but there are risk factors that can make it more likely. These risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Having a large neck circumference
- Having a narrow airway
- Being male
- Being older
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers
- Having nasal congestion or allergies
- Having medical conditions such as congestive heart failure or high blood pressure
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
If you have sleep apnea, you may experience any of the following signs or symptoms:
- Weight gain or obesity
- Difficulty concentrating & remembering things
- Irritability & mood swings
- Depression, anxiety, & other emotional issues
- Increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, & heart failure
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- High blood pressure
- Decreased libido
When to See a Professional
If you think you might have sleep apnea, you should book an appointment to see a professional right away. They’ll conduct tests to make sure this is the correct diagnosis and then recommend treatment options based on your specific needs.
Can Sleep Apnea Go Away On Its Own?
Sleep apnea does not go away on its own. While there is no cure for this chronic condition, there are treatments and lifestyle changes that can reduce your symptoms and help you live a good quality of life with the condition.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Sleep apnea can be treated in a variety of ways.
If you have a mild case of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend simple lifestyle adjustments to manage your symptoms such as:
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding certain medications like muscle relaxants
- Exercising more
- Quitting drinking
- Changing your sleeping position
- Treat nasal allergies if you have these
If these measures don’t improve your symptoms or if your apnea is moderate to severe, lifestyle adjustments likely won’t make a lasting difference.
For moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, your doctor will determine which of the following treatments is right for you:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or other airway pressure devices
- Oral appliances
- Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV)
If lifestyle changes or therapies aren’t a suitable option for you, there are additional treatments available, such as:
- Tissue removal or shrinkage surgery
- Jaw repositioning
- Nerve stimulation
- Treatment for other conditions that may be causing your sleep apnea.
While sleep apnea won’t go away on its own, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to improve your sleep apnea. It’s best to make these changes alongside professional treatment. At our practice, Dr. Adatia can work with you to develop a plan for reducing your sleep apnea symptoms. Book an appointment or contact us today for more information.