25 Jul What is Sleep Apnea, and What Can You Do About It?
Fatigue, excessive snoring, trouble concentrating, gasping for air throughout the night, daytime sleepiness, and even depression are all symptoms of a potentially severe sleep-related breathing disorder called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can range from mild to severe and can lead to heart failure or stroke in the most extreme cases when left untreated.
The number of people with sleep apnea in the United States alone is more significant than you might imagine. Approximately 30% of men and 15% of women in the United States are impacted by sleep apnea.¹ The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud and frequent snoring that bothers those around you. At Key West ENT, we see many patients yearly seeking relief from their obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when there is a complete or partial collapse of the upper airway for ten seconds or more while asleep or when the airway becomes blocked by the tongue. You might not notice the symptoms in mild cases, with obstructions only occurring 5-15 times per hour while asleep. In moderate cases, the symptoms are more likely to be noticed, with airway obstruction occurring between 15-30 times per hour. Severe cases are defined as 30 or more events per hour with very noticeable symptoms that can be harmful when not adequately addressed.¹
When To See Your Doctor
Since the symptoms and severity of sleep apnea can vary significantly from patient to patient, it is essential to see a doctor when you start to be impacted by sleep apnea symptoms. A doctor can adequately address the problem and suggest a course of treatment.
It is important to visit a doctor because while snoring can seem like a relatively harmless part of a night’s sleep, there are potentially dangerous repercussions if left untreated. Over time if left untreated obstructive sleep apnea can result in hypertension, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and even untimely death.²
Treating Sleep Apnea
Luckily with sleep apnea, there are several options for treatment depending on the patient and the severity. Treatment for OSA is dependent on what is causing the OSA in the first place. We have outlined some of the most common paths below; however, it is always crucial to go over treatment plans with a doctor familiar with sleep disorders.
Lifestyle Modifications to Treat Sleep Apnea
- Weightloss: Being overweight or obese is one of the leading causes of developing OSA. If you are overweight, weight loss is one of your best courses of action to lessen sleep apnea. Even losing as little as 5%-10% of your body weight can significantly improve your obstructive sleep apnea³ and overall health.
- Alcohol: It would be best to avoid alcohol at least four hours before bedtime as alcohol is known to suppress breathing².
- Sleeping Position: If you are someone that usually sleeps on their back, you should try sleeping on your side. Sleeping on your back causes snoring, and simply switching positions could wholly or partially rectify your OSA.¹
- Medications: If you are currently taking medications impacting your central nervous system, please consult with a healthcare provider, as these medications could exacerbate your OSA.¹ If you have mild OSA, lifestyle modifications alone may be enough to get your symptoms under control. However, if you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, you will likely need further medical intervention to get your symptoms under control.
- Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) Treatments for Sleep Apnea: There are two ways of delivering positive airway pressure to alleviate the symptoms of moderate to severe sleep apnea. The CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is a commonly used device to treat OSA. The device fits over your mouth and nose like a mask and works to prevent airway collapse by providing constant airflow to your airways. The BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) is a device that doctors may prescribe if the CPAP does not work for the patient. The BiPAP is similar to the CPAP, but it provides airflow on two different levels. One is for breathing in, and the other is for breathing out.¹
- Alternatives to PAP and Lifestyle Modifications: Some patients find that PAP devices and lifestyle modifications alone cannot manage their OSA. For these patients, other alternatives exist.
- Oral Appliances: Oral appliances are worn at night and work by stabilizing your mouth and improving airflow. They are an alternative for individuals for whom PAP was unsuccessful or are looking for a more comfortable alternative to PAP devices.
- Surgical Options: When all other paths have been exhausted, surgical options are available for patients suffering from OSA. One such surgery is the implantation of Inspire Sleep® Upper Airway Stimulator. Inspire Sleep® is implanted in the patient’s chest and works by stimulating the tongue to keep the airways open while asleep. It sends a signal to the hypoglossal nerve (the nerve in the tongue) to move the tongue forward and prevent it from blocking the air passage. Inspire Sleep® comes with a remote control allowing the user to turn the device on when they sleep at night.⁴ At Island ENT in Key West, FL, we can screen and refer qualifying patients to receive the Inspire Sleep® device.*
Call Island ENT at (305) 928-2848 any time to learn how we can help you manage your OSA!
Located: 1438 Kennedy Drive, Key West, FL 33040
*To be a candidate for Inspire Sleep®, you must have moderate to severe OSA, be over 18, have a BMI of under 32kg/m², and be unable to tolerate PAP treatments for OSA.⁴
¹ Ikpeze, Tochukwu. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.” Sleepapnea.org, 6 Sept. 2022, https://www.sleepapnea.org/obstructive-sleep-apnea/.
² Rowley, James A, et al. “What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults?” American Thoracic Society.
³ Coaker, Melisa A., et al. “Weight Loss and Sleep Apnea.” American Thoracic Society.
⁴ Manchanda, Shalini, et al. “Upper Airway Stimulation/Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulator.” American Thoracic Society.