Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing while you sleep. Your brain will then wake you up so you can breathe, and the cycle repeats itself. While sleep apnea can be difficult to notice, it can cause numerous symptoms that negatively impact your overall health and quality of life. Luckily, doctors can often treat it successfully once it is diagnosed.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is associated with many different symptoms that can have a negative effect on your overall health. They include the following:
- Snoring – This symptom is most commonly associated with sleep apnea, but you can also have sleep apnea without snoring.
- Episodes in which you stop breathing or gasp for air as you sleep – You may not notice this symptom, but a sleep partner may alert you to it.
- A dry or sore throat when you wake up – Sleep apnea can cause you to breathe through your mouth as you sleep.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness – Since your sleep is interrupted by pauses in breathing, you may feel sleepy during the daytime.
- Repeated instances of waking up at night – You may not always be aware of waking up or might think you are waking up for another reason, like going to the bathroom.
- Morning headaches – This symptom may be associated with poor sleep or a lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnea.
- Mood swings and irritability – A lack of good quality sleep can affect your mood.
Treating Sleep Apnea
A doctor can treat sleep apnea in a variety of ways. Conservative, non-surgical forms of treatment are usually the first course of action. These include positive airway pressure (PAP) devices that push air through a hose attached to a mask you wear on your face when you sleep. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is the most well-known type of this device.
Oral appliances can also help treat sleep apnea. They gently move your jaw forward during sleep, which can open your airway. This treatment can sometimes relieve snoring and mild sleep apnea.
Reconstructive surgery is also sometimes used to treat sleep apnea. It can be a first option if you have jaw structure problems, but for most people, it’s used after non-invasive treatments are unsuccessful. In one type of reconstructive surgery, your doctor can remove tissue from the rear of your mouth and the top of your throat to prevent your airway from closing. Your tonsils and adenoids are also usually removed as part of this procedure as well.
Jaw repositioning can also treat sleep apnea. This reconstructive surgery involves moving your jaw forward to increase the space behind your tongue and soft palate. Your doctor may also treat your sleep apnea by implanting soft rods into your soft palate.
If you have a deviated septum (the wall that separates your nose into two nostrils), it may be contributing to your sleep apnea. Your doctor can perform surgery to correct a deviated septum and relieve sleep apnea symptoms.
Consult Your Health Care Provider
If you snore, frequently wake during the night, or have other symptoms associated with sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing. Your doctor can assess your symptoms to determine if you are suffering from sleep apnea or if another culprit is to blame for your interrupted sleep. Once you have a diagnosis, treatment can often help relieve your symptoms so you can get a good, safe night’s sleep.