Four Solutions for Sleep Apnea

After a busy and hectic workday, a short nap sounds heavenly. At least, that’s the opinion of over half of Americans today. More than 50 percent of us have taken a nap within the last seven days. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this indicates much more than the love of a power nap—it means Americans are not getting enough quality sleep, which can contribute to poor health and lower productivity.

Inadequate sleep is often due to sleep apnea, a condition where the sleeper stops breathing in short intervals hundreds of times during the night.  This disorder affects more than 18 million American adults; it can even affect children. While snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, not everyone who snores has the disorder, which is why it is important to be evaluated by your ENT for an accurate diagnosis. These physicians, who specialize in disorders of the ear, nose and throat, are uniquely qualified to treat sleep disorders.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty remembering or learning
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon wakening
  • Irritability
  • Depression or mood swings

People at greatest risk for developing sleep apnea are those who are overweight, those with a family history of sleep apnea, those with enlarged tonsils, and those with smaller airway passages in the nose, throat, or mouth. While children can have sleep apnea, the risk for the condition increases with age.

It’s vital to get help for sleep apnea because it can be deadly: the disease puts you at risk for developing more serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and even stroke.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment with an ENT. Before your appointment, it’s useful to keep a journal recording how many hours you sleep each night and any daytime drowsiness you’ve experienced. Usually, your ENT will schedule a sleep study. During this painless study, you are monitored overnight at a sleep center, where electrodes are placed on your legs, head and chest. While you sleep, technologists record your eye movements, breathing and heart rhythm. After the study, your ENT will interpret the results and provide a course of treatment.

Sleep Apnea Solutions

There are several treatments for sleep apnea, and we’ve outlined four of them below.

  1. CPAP machines
    The most common solution is a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous airway pressure. This device includes a mask that fits over the nose and mouth, delivering air in order to keep your airways open during sleep. If your ENT suggests this course of treatment, it is vital that you have the CPAP “fit-tested” to ensure it will be effective.
     
  2. Mouth guards
    These dental devices reposition the tongue and jaw, clearing the airway so you can breathe. They can be customized to fit the size and shape of your mouth.
     
  3. Surgery
    In some cases, excess tissue in the airway may cause blockage, leading to sleep apnea and snoring. ENTs can surgically correct this problem by removing the tissue.
     
  4. Lifestyle changes
    While lifestyle changes themselves may not completely solve the problem, sleep apnea is more common in those who are overweight. Speak with your doctor about a diet and exercise regimen that can help. Avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking can also help you manage or prevent sleep apnea.

 

Quality sleep is not a luxury—it is vital to your health! Not only does it boost productivity and improve your mood, it also strengthens your immune system. Poor sleep may be caused by sleep apnea, and only your ENT can determine the best course of treatment to help you catch some quality Zzzzz’s and help safeguard your health.

 


Sources:

 

 

National Sleep Foundation. “Sleep Apnea Treatment.”

 

 

National Institutes of Health. “What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?”

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “Who is at Risk for Developing Sleep Apnea?”