Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can have major consequences if it goes untreated. For starters, there are 3 types of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. If your sleep apnea goes untreated the consequences include high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and you could possibly fall asleep behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Sleep apnea is more common among men more so than women. Specifically African-American and Hispanic men. Other risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Being overweight
- Being 40 years of age or older
- Having a large neck size
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
- Suffering from gastro esophageal reflux (GERD)
- Nasal obstructions due to allergies, sinus problems, or a deviated septum
Sleep apnea is defined as a sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is normally caused by a blockage of the airway. Most times the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to signal the muscles to breath due to an instability in the respiratory control center. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is as common as type 2 diabetes. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea with 80 percent of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea cases being undiagnosed. Listed below are the common symptoms of sleep apnea from the Mayo Clinic:
- Loud snoring (predominantly with obstructive sleep apnea)
- Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person
- Sudden awakenings throughout the night accompanied by shortness of breath
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Difficulties staying asleep
- Attention problems
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
The Mayo Clinic also listed when you should consult your physician about sleep apnea:
- Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself
- Shortness of breath that awakens your from sleep
- Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you're working, watching T.V. or even driving
Snoring can often times be dismissed because it tends to be a common habit in a lot of people and not everyone who suffers from sleep apnea snores. If you or your loved one snores loud enough to bother you, and/or snores with extended periods of silence in between snores, it is best that you speak with your doctor.
There are several treatment options your physician may suggest to alleviate symptoms cause by sleep apnea. Listed below are the different ways your doctor might treat your sleep apnea. Depending on the progression of the disease and your personal situation, your treatment may vary.
CPAP machines are the most common and reliable method of treating sleep apnea. They are generally given to patients suffering from moderate to severe sleep apnea. CPAP machines deliver air pressure through a mask that covers your nose. The CPAP machine delivers air pressure greater than the surrounding air just enough to ensure your upper airway passages remain open while you sleep preventing apnea and snoring. At first using a CPAP machine can be uncomfortable and cumbersome. If you fall under this category, make sure you do not stop using the CPAP machine. You can always check with your physician to see if you can modify it to make it more comfortable. In some cases you may want to try different masks out to find one that works best for you. CPAP machines are compatible with home and portable oxygen concentrators offering a continuous flow. They are not compatible with pulse flow concentrators, this includes pulse flow units with sleep mode technology. The portable oxygen concentrators that will work with a CPAP machine are; DeVilbiss iGo, Invacare SOLO2, Respironics SimplyGo, Oxlife Independence, SeQual Eclipse 1, SeQual Eclipse 2, SeQual Eclipse 3, SeQual Eclipse 5, and the brand new SeQual eQuinox.
If you continue to have problems with your CPAP machine, there are other airway pressure devices available. BiPAP machines automatically adjusts the air pressure while you're sleeping. When you inhale the BiPAP machine will provide you with more pressure and when you exhale it will provide less pressure. BiPAP machines are also compatible with home and portable oxygen concentrators that offer a continuous flow. The portable oxygen concentrators that will work with BiPAP machines are; DeVilbiss iGo, Invacare SOLO2, Respironics SimplyGo, Oxlife Independence, SeQual Eclipse 1, SeQual Eclipse 2, SeQual Eclipse 3, SeQual Eclipse 5, and the SeQual eQuinox.
Oral appliances are yet another option to treat sleep apnea. While CPAP and BiPAP machines are more effective than oral appliances, oral appliances can be easier to use and more comfortable for the patient. Most oral appliances are available through your dentist. There are a number of different oral appliances with different purposes, so it may take some trial and error to find the one that works best for you.
Surgery to treat sleep apnea is generally a last resort. There are a number of different surgeries that treat sleep apnea like; tissue removal, jaw repositioning, implants, and a tracheostomy (creating a new air passageway), nasal surgery, and surgery to remove enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Most physicians and surgeons will not recommend surgery until other treatments have failed. If you think your sleep apnea treatment is ineffective speak with your doctor about other treatment options before considering going in for surgery.
Supplemental oxygen can play an important role in the treatment of sleep apnea and other respiratory diseases. While you don't necessarily need oxygen if you suffer from sleep apnea, there is a great number of oxygen patients who suffer from sleep apnea. Apnea is a Greek word that literally means without breath. Supplemental oxygen is used as a treatment more commonly with central sleep apnea. If you wake up feeling short of breath, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness with your current treatment, speak with your doctor about adding supplemental oxygen to your treatment. A lot of sleep apnea patients requiring oxygen live active lifestyles and travel a decent amount. Whether it's for business or pleasure you still need oxygen at your destination. While you can set it up through an oxygen company to have a home oxygen machine waiting for you at your destination, a continuous flow portable oxygen concentrator is something to consider. Continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators are able to be brought on board airplanes, trains, buses, and cruise ships making it easy for you to bring your own machine wherever you go. The continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators available are; DeVilbiss iGo, Invacare SOLO2, Oxlife Independence, Respironics SimplyGo, SeQual Eclipse 1, SeQual Eclipse 2, SeQual Eclipse 3, SeQual Eclipse 5, and the SeQual eQuinox.