Having a regular sleeping pattern is essential for living a full and healthy life. Disturbed sleep can lead to daytime fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating. One of the most common causes of disturbed sleep patterns is Sleep Apnea. Up to 12 million Americans suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. OSA means that a physical obstruction is causing the airway to become blocked during sleeping, although the sufferer will be trying to breathe normally. Snoring is a common symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
The apnea, pauses in breathing, can last for seconds or minutes, and can occur as often as 30-60 times an hour. The sleeper may be unaware of the problem, but in many instances will suffer significant fatigue over time. People who witness a person suffering from sleep apnea can find it frightening. Sufferers are sometimes treated using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. This is an air supplying mask worn during sleep. If you don’t like the thought of sleeping with a mask on, here are 5 CPAP alternatives.
Excessive weight, and alcohol consumption, have all been shown to be contributing factors to sleep apnea. Avoid drinking alcohol before you go to sleep, stick to guideline amounts, and adapt a healthier lifestyle. These can all help to reduce the severity of sleep apnea attacks, but in themselves are unlikely to provide a cure.
You may have heard of oral appliances being used as a treatment for snoring? As snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, these appliances can also be used as a sleep apnea treatment. The mouth-guard like device is worn during sleep, and works by pushing the lower mandible forward. This helps to prevent the collapse of soft oral tissues that can then lead to airway obstruction. Oral appliances are widely available, but should only be used under the supervision of a health care specialist. Poor fitting can lead to unpleasant side effects such as jaw, face and dental pain, excessive saliva production, and gum irritation.
An unusually soft palate can lead to sleep apnea. By stiffening the palate, patients can achieve a better night’s sleep and reduce snoring. This is performed via different methods. Two common methods for palate stiffening are office procedures known as the Pillar Procedure, and RadioFrequency Ablation of the Palate. These simple procedures are performed out under local anesthetic, usually in the office, during which the palate is scarred. This makes the palate more rigid, and reduces the floppiness that can cause problems. The procedures can be highly effective, and each takes around 20 minutes to perform.
Tongue Base Reduction
Some people have a larger than usual tongue base. This can fall back during sleep, causing an obstruction of the airways called hypopharynx. This, in turn, can lead to the debilitating effects of sleep apnea. Radio Frequency Ablation can be used to reduce the base of the tongue, without the side effects of more invasive surgical procedures such as bleeding, and difficulty in swallowing.
Tonsillectomy and Oropharyngeal Surgery
Enlarged tonsils, or uvula, as well as an elongated palate may contribute to sleep apnea. When less invasive procedures do not work, surgical procedures may be effective. These procedures can range from simple tonsillectomy, to more involved procedures known as Uvula-Palato-Pharyngo-Plasty (or UPPP).
Sleep apnea can have a disruptive effect on the life of you and your partner, and may lead to serious health consequences if untreated. For this reason, patients who suspect sleep apnea should be evaluated and treated. Treatment options vary, and should be discussed with a physician.