Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder that affects an estimated 22 million Americans. Sleep apnea is serious as it causes repeated interruptions in a person's breathing while they sleep. If you think you might have this sleep disorder, here are four things to know about sleep apnea.
1. Know the Causes of Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the throat muscles relax during sleep. When the throat muscles relax, it causes the airway to close. When the brain senses this happening, it sends a signal for you to breathe which reopens the airway.
Some of the most common causes of this type of sleep apnea include:
- Thick neck circumference
- Family history
- Naturally narrow airway
People who smoke or use alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers increase their risk of having sleep apnea. Males are more likely than females to have sleep apnea.
2. Know the Symptoms
You may have sleep apnea if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- You snore loudly.
- You wake up with a dry mouth.
- You have a headache in the morning.
- You have difficulty staying asleep.
If you sleep in the same bed or room with someone else, they might notice that you stop and start breathing as you sleep. They might also observe that you gasp for air when you're sleeping.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should get tested for sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea causes certain complications, such as daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, liver problems, and complications with general anesthesia when having surgery.
3. Know How to Get Tested
If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, your physician may recommend seeing a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders. For a proper diagnosis, you will most likely have to undergo a sleep study, which is also called polysomnography (PSG).
During this type of test, you sleep in a lab where a technician monitors your sleep cycle, breathing, and heart rate. If you don't want to do an in-lab sleep study, you may be able to do one at home. For an at-home sleep study, you'll be prescribed a portable breathing monitor.
4. Know the Treatment Options
If a sleep study shows you have sleep apnea, the type of treatment will largely depend upon the cause. In many cases, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy can help. This type of treatment involves the use of CPAP machines, which helps you breathe more regularly as you sleep.