Sleep Apnea is a common sleep disorder in which a person has one or more pauses in breathing or has shallow breaths during sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes occurring about five to 30 times or more per hour. These pauses in breathing are usually followed by a loud snort or choking sound, which is the body’s way to move or wake itself in order to get air.
Sleep Apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts sleep three or more nights per week. This sleep disorder results in poor sleep quality, fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness. Most people do not know they have sleep apnea; it is often undiagnosed and there are no blood tests to check for it. Usually a family member or sleep partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea.
The most common form is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which the airway is collapsed or blocked during sleep. Blockage may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses. This condition mostly occurs with people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone. Another less common form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. In this condition, an area of the brain that controls breathing does not send the correct signals to the breathing muscles, thus resulting in little or no effort to breathe for brief periods.
The dangers of sleep apnea include the increased risk for diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, obesity, stroke and the increased chance of having work-related or driving accidents.
Treatment for children and adults includes breathing devices, mouthpieces, changes in lifestyle, medications and surgery. Treatment for this condition aims at enlarging airway dimensions, as well as decreasing collapsibility of the airway.
Diagnosing sleep apnea in children can be more difficult, because symptoms are more subtle than in adults. About 10% of Children are Affected by this Sleep Disorder. The main cause of sleep apnea in children is enlarged adenoid and tonsillar tissues. Symptoms in children include bed wetting, daytime fatigue, hyperactive behavior, night terrors, poor school performance due to the inability to concentrate, restless sleep, snoring and sweating during sleep.
Individuals with sleep apnea are usually tired during the day due to lack of quality sleep, which is usually caused by a blocked or partially obstructed airway. The airway is formally composed of the upper and lower jaws, tongue, tonsils, soft palate and the side wall of the throat. Sleep apnea surgery addresses all the different areas of the airway in order to keep an airway open for optimal breathing during sleep. At Eastern Carolina ENT, we are dedicated to guide you to better sleep patterns resulting in a good nights' sleep.