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What is Sleep Apnea?

What is Sleep Apnea?


Breathing is an automatic bodily function that we don't have to keep track of. We trust our bodies. But what happens when breathing stops without warning?

We've been doing it since the day we were born. Breathing is an automatic bodily function that we don't have to constantly keep track of. We trust our bodies to do what they were built to do. But what happens when our breathing just stops without warning? Sleep apnea is just that— when breathing patterns start and stop repeatedly during sleep. The airways can be blocked due to issues such as being overweight, having certain medical conditions, or being diagnosed with a neurological disorder.

Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious disorder where breathing stops repeatedly throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times. For some it could take up to ten seconds to continue breathing after a long pause. It affects 5-10% of adults from the US, and 80% of the 30 million Americans that have the disorder go undiagnosed. Snoring is a big symptom triggered by sleep apnea, and is often overlooked. If you are a snorer and find that you are constantly exhausted throughout each day, chances are you might suffer from sleep apnea.

The involuntary pause between each breath can be the result of a blocked airway or improper brain signaling. When the throat muscles relax too much during sleep, obstructive sleep apnea could occur from a closed off airway. Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to send the right signals to the breathing muscles, so they stall out. It is possible for someone to have both forms of sleep apnea at the same time. Upon finally receiving the brain's signal or the airways open up, the patient may take a deep breath, snort, snore loudly, or completely wake up gasping for air. Other symptoms include morning headaches, restlessness while sleeping, being constantly tired during the day, waking up with dry mouth, and the inability to focus on daily tasks.

What could be causing this sleep disorder? If you are male and over 40, you are more susceptible to having sleep apnea, but it can occur in women and young children as well. People with a family history of sleep apnea, are overweight, or have a large neck size are commonly known to have the sleep disorder. Other physical traits that could promote it are having a large tongue or tonsils, a small jaw, a deviated septum, or being born prematurely. There are several conditions that could cause sleep apnea, a few of them being heart or kidney failure, endocrine disorders, allergies, sinus problems, or genetic syndromes. Some additional behavioral factors like smoking and drinking can contribute to having sleep apnea.

It is important to notice the signs of sleep apnea and get a proper diagnosis from a physician. There are a lot of risk factors involved with sleep apnea that can be avoided with treatment. When there is continuously not enough oxygen in the blood, it could eventually lead to high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, heart failure/attack, irregular heartbeat, headaches, worsened ADHD, and even increased risk of sudden death. Make sure you pay attention to your loved ones to see if they show any signs of sleep apnea so you can put them on the right path to treatment.


How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea?


Breathing is an automatic bodily function that we don't have to keep track of. We trust our bodies. But what happens when breathing stops without warning?


If you are concerned about having the risk factors that could develop into sleep apnea, ask your doctor about what healthy lifestyle changes you can make, like reaching a healthy weight, eating right, and having a good sleep schedule. Your doctor might also suggest that you limit your alcohol intake, stop smoking, and sleep on your side instead of your back. These lifestyle changes are usually only prescribed for milder cases of sleep apnea.

For those suffering from moderate to severe sleep apnea, there are many treatment options out there to choose from. The goal with receiving treatment is to normalize breathing during sleep, which is proven to eliminate daytime fatigue, halt mental health issues caused by lack of sleep, and prevent strain on the heart and breathing muscles. The most common and reliable form of sleep apnea treatment is to undergo positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, or sleep therapy.

After your doctor determines how much air you need during sleep, you may be advised to begin using a CPAP machine to help you breathe normally at night. The machine gently forces pressurized air through a mask worn during sleep. The continuous airflow is just enough to keep your airways open and prevent snoring. While many CPAP users swear by their machine and use it regularly, many users find that wearing a mask while they sleep is cumbersome and uncomfortable. They give up on the CPAP before giving it enough time to see any real results. If you stick with your device, get used to it more, and form good habits, you will soon be able to use it without any issues.

Some other methods of treating sleep apnea are:

  • Oral appliances: fitted mouthpieces that keep your airways open by bringing your jaw forward and keeping your tongue in place
  • Implants: nerve stimulators are placed underneath the skin of the neck and chest during surgery that stimulate the respiratory tract to keeps airways open when it detects changes in breathing patterns
  • Surgery: an option only if all other treatments have been unsuccessful. Types of surgeries can include removal of the tonsils, re-positioning the jaw to open airways, tissue shrinkage in the mouth, or creation of a new airway if all else fails.

When making an appointment to determine if you have sleep apnea, ask your physician what you should do beforehand to be prepared. Take note of all your symptoms or keep a sleep diary. Write down all the questions you have so you will remember them clearly when you arrive at the doctor's office.

If you suffer from sleep apnea it is imperative that you receive treatment before any risks develop or your health declines from never having enough oxygen. Liberty Medical extends their hand to you if you are diagnosed with it. We offer innovative sleep therapy solutions that will help you feel more rested, keep you breathing regularly while you sleep, and help you live a more health-conscious life.

You can purchase one of our CPAPs along with a mask and any accessories you might need that will make sleep therapy a more comfortable and effective experience for you. Our technical support team is available 24/7 to help you in any way they can! Let us know if you have any questions about our sleep therapy systems and we'd be glad to assist you today.

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