Table of Contents
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Warning! Do not use Valium, Xanax,tranquilizers or other sleeping pills in order to improve your sleep if there is a substantial chance that you may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. You may think you are sleeping better, but it is an illusion that could lead to stroke, heart attack or even early death. Click here to read why this can happen.
Anti-snoring devices and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The term “Apnea” means “no breath”. Ordinarily, breathing is automatic. Unfortunately, when a person falls asleep, things sometimes become a little more complicated. In a percentage of people, the relaxation of the muscles during sleep can allow the structures of the nose and mouth to to fall backwards against the back wall of the throat which can constrict the airway. Snoring is the noise made when there is a partial obstruction of the airway. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the complete stoppage of breathing for short intervals due to this type of constriction. The diagram above shows the general flow of air (denoted by the white arrows), through the nose and mouth, past the tongue and the soft palate, and into the trachea leading to the lungs.
While the relaxation of the muscles during sleep allows the oral and nasal structures to cause some constriction of the airway in almost everyone, certain people, most notably older males, overweight people, and people with short necks may suffer more serious constrictions. If the airway is only partially obstructed, the obstruction manifests as snoring which is caused by the vibration of the soft palate and the tongue against the back of the throat as air tries to pass by. In more serious obstruction, the airway may be entirely blocked which tends to rouse the patient from a sound sleep into a lighter form of sleep in which the muscles regain their tone and the patient gasps for air.
The patient may be unaware of these events, even though they may happen as many as hundreds of times a night. Unaware or not, these airless episodes last 10 to 30 seconds and may cause the patient lots of trouble.
SAS–Sleep Apnea Syndrome general facts
Sleep apnea is much more common than most people realize. Approximatelly 40% of men and 24% of women over the age of 40 snore. This puts the figure of snorers in the UAS at between 50 million and 70 million persons in all who snore.
The syndrome gets worse with age and weight gain. One physical characteristic typically associated with sleep apnea is a large neck size. For men, a collar size of 17 inches or larger, and for women, 15 and a half inches or larger is places a person at greater risk of suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Weight loss will frequently reduce or eliminate obstructive sleep apnea, but not always.
The term Apnea means a complete obstruction of the airway leading to a cessation of breathing for a minimum of 10 seconds between breaths, although in some severe cases it can last longer than 60 seconds. The term Hypopnea means a partial obstruction with at least a 50% reduction in normal airflow for at least 10 seconds and more than five per hour. In either case, reduction in the frequency of breathing leads to reduced blood oxygen saturation which in turn leads to a “neurological arousal”. This means that the patient either awakens (generally very suddenly, often with gasping and choking), or that the patient is brought to a much lighter stage of sleep. Either way, bad things happen.
Severe snoring. Most people with obstructive apnea are likely to snore between apnic events. Everyone who snores has at least minor OSA, and severe snoring combined with one or more of the following symptoms is a good indication that that person could be suffering from serious ozygen deprivation during sleep.
Dry, sore throat and nasal passages in the morning upon awakening.
A swollen and red uvula (the thing that hangs down in the back of the throat. You can see it in the image below), as well as swollen and red tonsils. A look in the mirror in the morning may reveal a throat that looks like this:
Sore jaws, headaches, neck aches and ear aches on awakening in the morning. These are symptoms of “night grinding, and are indicative of TemporoMandibular Dysfunction which is covered on my pages on TMJ. Night grinding is often associated with muscle hyperactivity which, in turn, is caused by the oxygen desaturation brought about due to sleep apnea.
Restless muscles during sleep. Lack of oxygen in the blood causes all muscles to become restless. Persons with sleep apnea often find their legs in nearly constant motion during the night, or they may find themselves kicking in their sleep.
Multiple sudden awakenings during sleep. When a person ceases to breath during sleep, he or she may wake up, often with a gasp, many times a night. This may happen literally hundreds of times a night, or just a few dozen. Not everyone with severe OSA experiences sudden awakenings since many patients are simply aroused to a lighter level of sleep in which they regain muscle tone in the throat so that breathing may begin again.
Excessive daytime sleepiness. Even if a person with sleep apnea does not awaken many times a night, he or she must continuously rise to a lighter level of sleep in order to regain enough control of the throat muscles to relieve the obstruction. This reduces the quality of the sleep. Patients with OSA often complain of waking up feeling like they had never slept at all. They often feel worse after taking a nap than they did before napping.
Impotence, and/or lack of interest in sex. Sleep apnea has wide ranging physiological and psychological effects, including high blood pressure, slowed heart rate, changes in appetite and sexual arousal. For men especially, the inability to perform sexually is a major cause of depression and loss of confidence. Obstructive sleep apnea is probably a silent factor in the failure of many marriages.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in childrenand adults.
We used to think that tooth grinding in children was perfectly normal. New research, however, has cast doubt on this old axiom. The grinding of the teeth during sleep in both adults and in children is now considered an indication that the patient may not be breathing correctly during sleep. Children tend to have extremely large tonsils and adenoids which may block the airway and in some cases cause the child to stop breathing for varying lengths of time during sleep. Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.
Of course not all children who grind their teeth at night suffer from OSA, but parents should be aware of the other symptoms that their child may display if they fail to breath properly at night. If your child suffers from one or more of the following symptoms in addition to night grinding, you should consult a pediatrician.
Behavioral and mental effects, include:
- Excessive sleepiness during the day
- Hyperactive behavior
- Other behavioral disturbances
- Decreased school performance
- Mental retardation (in severe, untreated cases)
Cardiovascular effects, include:
- High blood pressure
- Pulmonary hypertension (High blood pressure in the lungs)
- Abnormal heart function
Other health effects
- Diminished growth due to reduced hormone production
- Re-shaping of the ribs (due to increased respiratory effort)
- Bed wetting
- Worsening of coexisting medical conditions, including asthma.
- Sleepiness leading to traffic and occupational accidents.
- Impaired memory
- personality changes
- Impaired concentration
- Poor job performance
- Sudden death from heart attack or stroke.
Obstructive Sleep apnea-Who treats OSA, and how is it treated?==>>