Why You Shouldn't Ignore Your Sleep Apnea

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90 million Americans suffer from snoring. Snoring in itself is not dangerousit’s merely the symptom of air having a little trouble escaping from your nose and throat.

About half of snorers, however, suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious sleep disorder. Unlike snorers, who are only in danger from a sharp elbow from their bed partner, those with obstructive sleep apnea can experience serious health issues as a result of their apnea. If you know you snore at night and often find yourself drowsy during the day, it’s time to see if you have sleep apnea.

Although serious, obstructive sleep apnea is easily diagnosed and treated. At Petoskey Ear Nose and Throat Specialists, we know sleep apnea like the back of our hand. Dr. Somers, Dr. Feeley, and the rest of our team will help you get tested for sleep apnea and give you the tools to control this disorder. A good night’s sleep isn’t far away.

Obstructive sleep apnea basics

Snoring happens when air can’t move freely through your nose and throat during sleep. As the air forces its way through, the surrounding tissue vibrates and creates the signature snore sound.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when air isn’t just restricted, but totally blocked. Apnea occurs when the tissues that support your tongue and soft palette, which contains the uvula, combine to totally block air as your body tries to inhale. When your brain realizes your breathing is totally blocked, it wakes you up just enough to manually breath. You gasp for air, but you’re awake for such a short amount of time that you don’t realize it.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes fatigue

While sleep apnea doesn’t wake you up long enough for you to realize, it does disrupt normal, restorative sleep. The consequence of this is daytime drowsiness and fatigue.

People with obstructive sleep apnea struggle to concentrate and often have trouble staying awake at work. The Mayo Clinic reports that apnea sufferers are more likely to be involved in accidents in the car or the workplace. Additionally, sleep apnea can impact your mood and make you irritable, depressed, or short-tempered.

Obstructive sleep apnea and heart issues

Sleep apnea can also do serious damage to your heart. When your restricted breathing causes sudden drops in blood oxygen, your blood pressure spikes and your cardiovascular system as a whole strains to keep everything up and running. As a result, sleep apnea puts you at increased risk for high blood pressure, recurrent heart attacks, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats.

Other sleep apnea complications 

Those with obstructive sleep apnea have also been shown to be at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk of heart disease.

Finally, your bed partner will probably get less sleep too. Deep snoring and recurrent gasping make it hard for your partner to get restful sleep. Now, two people are dealing with fatigue and drowsiness.

Diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is diagnosed through a sleep study, which can be done at home or in a sleep lab. Both are equally good at diagnosis but sleep lab tests are able to take more measurements and better inform treatment.

For those with mild sleep apnea who are overweight, weight loss may be the best, most cost-effective treatment. Overweight people are more likely to have excess tissue in the back of the throat, which makes sleep apnea more likely to occur. Patients who lose weight can see their sleep apnea lessened or totally cured.

If weight is not the issue, you’ll get paired up with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP machines are designed to prevent your airway from closing when you inhale by increasing the air pressure in your throat through a mask. 

CPAP machines have very few negative side effects, and most patients report great results after they get used to sleeping with the CPAP mask on.

Are you ready for a restful night of sleep and less daytime drowsiness? At Petoskey Ear Nose and Throat Specialists, we’ll help you overcome this sleep disorder so you can get the great sleep you deserve. Call or request an appointment at our Petoskey or Gaylord office today. 

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