If you’re like most people, you are probably very aware of how irritating snoring can be. Perhaps you have a partner who snores, or maybe you yourself are the guilty party. Although snoring can cause some sleepless nights, it’s typically a minor issue. In some cases, however, snoring isn’t just an annoyance–it’s a sign of medical issues. Sometimes, people who snore loudly have sleep apnea. Although snoring can seem harmless, sleep apnea isn’t. It can interfere with your sleep and put you at risk for other health problems.
If you think you have sleep apnea, diagnosing and treating it will not only help you get a better night’s sleep. It can also help you enjoy a healthier, longer life.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder that causes you to temporarily stop breathing while you sleep. There are a few different types of sleep apnea, with the most common form being obstructive sleep apnea. When a person has obstructive sleep apnea, their throat muscles relax while they sleep. The relaxed muscles either block or restrict the airway, limiting the amount of oxygen the person can take in. Usually, the brain is able to sense that oxygen in the blood is low. In response, it wakes the person up.
Depending on the severity of the condition, a person with obstructive sleep apnea might stop breathing and wake themselves up anywhere from a few times an hour to 30 or more times an hour. The frequent wakings usually prevent a person from entering a deep sleep.
Although snoring loudly is a common symptom of sleep apnea, it’s not the only sign of the condition. A person might be a loud snorer and not have the disorder. Other symptoms associated with sleep apnea include feeling drowsy or tired during the day, waking up with a dry mouth, being irritable and having a headache in the morning. If you share a bed or bedroom with someone else, they might tell you that you pause or stop breathing while you sleep.
Ways Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Health
The trouble with sleep apnea isn’t only that it disrupts sleep and makes you snore loudly. It can also have other far-reaching effects on your body and health. For example, there is a connection between sleep apnea and an increased risk for hypertension (high blood pressure). When you aren’t getting enough air while you sleep, the oxygen levels in your blood drop. That drop in oxygen puts more stress on your circulatory system, increasing blood pressure.
Along with an increased risk for high blood pressure, untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk for heart disease and strokes. The reduced oxygen levels in the blood can interfere with your blood flow and heart rate.
Being overweight can increase your risk for sleep apnea, as the extra weight can put additional pressure on your throat muscles. Interestingly, having sleep apnea can make it more of a challenge to lose weight and can lead to weight gain.
Treating Sleep Apnea
The risks of untreated sleep apnea are very real and can be dangerous to your health. Fortunately, the condition usually isn’t difficult to treat. Some people might be able to treat and control their sleep apnea by losing weight or by controlling their allergies. Others get relief from non-surgical, conservative treatments such as using a continuous s positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). With a CPAP, a person wears a mask over their nose or over their nose and mouth while they sleep. Air is pushed through the mask at a slightly higher pressure, which forces the airway open and keeps a person breathing.
A CPAP machine can take some getting used to and some people need to try out multiple machines before they find the one that’s right for them. But the improved sleep quality and overall improvement in health and quality of life is usually worth a bit of trial and error.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience helping patients with breathing problems in the Hudson Valley. A board-certified facial plastic surgeon and board-certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as the functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. To learn more about how to treat sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.