Ultimate guide for Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep, snoring/choking/gagging during sleep, sudden wakening after feeling like the person is suffocating during sleep, high blood pressure, memory loss and impotence.

What is Sleep Apnea ?

Apnea is defined in Stedmen’s Medical Dictionary as an “absence of breathing.” Typically, sleep apnea occurs as an absence of breathing during sleep for periods of longer than 10 seconds.

Apnea can last up to about three minutes. Apnea also occurs in normally healthy people, but it typically occurs less than five times per hour. In those people who experience sleep apnea as a disorder, breathing can stop as many as 60 times per hour.

Sleep-induced apnea is defined as “failure of the respiratory center (in the brain) to stimulate adequate respiration during sleep.” Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs because of “obstruction of the air passage ways or inadequate respiratory muscle activity.” True obstruction typically occurs in people who are obese, have a short jaw, or a receding chin.

How to know if you have Sleep Apnea ?

Careful evaluation of the nature of obstructive sleep apnea should be given to conclude whether surgical removal of obstructing tissue in the airway (a surgery called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty) will be successful. Sometimes OSA is diagnosed as the problem when the person does not have unusual tissue obstructing the airway, but rather has inadequate nervous system stimulation of airway muscle activity.

Be wary of the suggestion to have surgery when you are not obese, have a short jaw, or a receding chin and do not have obvious physical characteristics that suggest that they might be the cause of your apnea.

A diagnosis that is not thorough enough to determine whether the apnea is caused by inadequate stimulation of the breathing muscles can result in unnecessary surgery, a surgery that is known to produce great pain for several weeks after surgery.

While I have heard of surgeons telling patients that the success of the surgery to correct obstructive sleep apnea is as high as 85 percent, success may be as low as 18 percent (2) because removal of tissue does not necessarily address the cause.

Effective Treatment

While surgery is often suggested, as was stated, it is oftentimes not successful in reducing sleep apnea.

The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. These are small, portable machines that blow air through a hose to a mask worn by the person when they sleep.

The forced air prevents airway collapse by putting positive pressure in the upper airway.

Some people find CPAP to be intolerable because it produces continuous pressure that does not adjust to normal breathing. This can cause an uncomfortable feeling which results in poor compliance to the use of the device.

Another positive airway pressure device called a BIPAP is usually more successful than CPAP for more people because it adjusts to your own breathing by producing lower pressure when you exhale and higher pressure when you inhale.

For one client, while CPAP reduced apneas from 49 times per hour when sleeping on his back to 7 times per hour, BIPAP reduced apneas to zero. He also reports that BIPAP is far more comfortable than CPAP. Typically, doctors first prescribe CPAP, because it is less expensive, and insurance companies prefer it for this reason.

If apnea is diagnosed, consider proactively asking your doctor for a BIPAP machine rather than a CPAP.

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