Sleep apnea is a common yet often under-diagnosed sleep disorder. It is a potentially serious condition because it causes breathing to stop and start repeatedly during sleep. People who have sleep apnea may not even be aware of it, but there are a number of warning signs that can indicate the disorder. If you suspect you have the condition, you should seek further investigation and treatment as soon as possible.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that can affect people of all ages, including children. There are different types of sleep apnea, but the majority of cases are caused by obstructions in the nose or throat that block the airway and restrict breathing (apnea means cessation of breathing). Sleep apnea can prevent deep, restful sleep and can cause excessive daytime tiredness. The main types of the disorder are:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type, and it occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax during sleep, causing the airway to narrow or become blocked when breathing in. This prevents enough air from getting in, which lowers the oxygen level in the blood. When the brain recognizes that there is an inability to breathe, it causes you to wake momentarily, sometimes with a gasp, snort, or choke, so you can reopen your airway. Waking is usually brief, meaning you may not remember it the following day. This can happen repeatedly throughout the night, impairing your ability to get deep, restful sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is less common and occurs when the brain’s recognition of or response to oxygen and carbon dioxide levels is impaired. This causes the brain to fail to transmit proper signals to the muscles that control breathing and results in the body making no effort to breathe for a short period.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome also referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep, is very uncommon, but occurs when a person suffers from both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Warning Signs
Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea can often share similar signs and symptoms, so if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately in order to get the correct diagnosis and treatment. The most common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Episodes of stopped breathing during sleep (typically noticed by another person)
- Choking, snorting, or gasping for air during sleep
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Associated sleep problems such as insomnia (difficulty staying asleep) and hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tiredness and fatigue during the day, even following a full night’s sleep
People with central sleep apnea may awaken with shortness of breath or find it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be caused by different reasons, but certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of the condition, which include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a narrowed airway or enlarged tonsils or adenoids that can block the airway
- Having a thick neck circumference
- Being male
- Older age
- Family history
- Certain medical conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Nasal congestion
- Alcohol or some medications, such as sedatives
- Heart disorders or stroke
- Certain medications
Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnea
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, a neurology physician can help to determine the source of your condition and the best treatment for you. Your doctor will examine your nose and throat for structural abnormalities, and they may recommend a sleep study to help diagnose sleep apnea and determine the extent of the condition.
Treatment for sleep apnea will depend on the cause and severity of the condition but may include lifestyle changes, the use of a wearable device or dental appliance, and surgery. More than one type of treatment may be recommended.
Sleep Apnea Doctors Bradenton and Sarasota, FL
If you have a suspected sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, visit Intercoastal Medical Group for the specialist care you need. Our neurology specialists are devoted to the diagnosis and management of adult and pediatric disorders related to the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle diseases; which includes sleep disorders.
At Intercoastal Medical Group, we provide the best primary care physicians and specialists to treat all your healthcare needs. If you would like to find out more about our services or to schedule an appointment with one of our neurology physicians, call us today at (941) 906-7155 for Sarasota and (941) 538-0088 for Bradenton. Alternatively, you can request an appointment online.