Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people around the world. It occurs when the muscles in the throat relax too much during sleep, blocking a person's airway.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. This condition occurs when soft tissues in the throat collapse and block the airway, which obstructs breathing. The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are loud snoring as well as waking up with a gasping or choking sensation in the middle of the night. Many patients don't realize they have this condition because the symptoms are often present while they are sleeping.
Snoring is the sound caused by an obstruction in the airway while asleep. While not all snorers suffer from sleep apnea, the two are closely related, as a simple snorer may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea without even knowing it.
Snoring can be caused by many different things. Most often, it is caused by a blockage of airflow through the mouth and nose that causes the soft tissues in the throat to vibrate against each other and create the noise we associate with snoring. This is most commonly due to relaxed muscles in the back of the throat or by a tongue that falls to the back of the mouth while you sleep. However, if either of these issues happens, it can cause an obstruction of the airway that leads to different breathing issues such as sleep apnea.
When people sleep, the muscles of the body relax. This is especially true for the muscles in our throats. In fact, these muscles are often so relaxed during sleep that they can cause the tongue to fall back into the throat and the airways to be obstructed. Now, this is not to say that everyone who suffers from sleep apnea is a chronic snorer. There are a few different types of sleep apnea. In central sleep apnea, the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles to breathe. This causes a lack of oxygen in the body and a buildup of carbon dioxide. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea, and it is the type associated with simple snoring.
Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea includes a CPAP machine, which delivers continuous positive airway pressure to keep the airways open while sleeping. This treatment is effective in most cases and is non-invasive. If a patient doesn't respond well to this treatment, other forms of treatment are available such as orthodontic oral appliances and surgery.
Many patients find relief from sleep-disordered breathing with an oral appliance that is worn in the mouth at night. The device opens the bite to allow for easier airflow, helping keep the airways unobstructed through the night. An oral appliance is also useful in cases where the patient has a mild case of snoring or simple snoring but may suffer from sleep apnea in the future.
In other cases, a patient requires surgery to correct more serious cases of sleep apnea. These cases are typically accompanied by symptoms of frequently choking during the night or waking up gasping for air. In these cases, a doctor may recommend a procedure such as a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, which opens the throat by removing excess tissue from the soft palate and surrounding area. Another option is a mandibular advancement device, which is a device that is attached to the front of the mandible to help it move forward during sleep and keep the airways clear. This device is ideal for patients who don't qualify for surgical treatment due to other health issues.
To learn more about our services for sleep health, call us at (971) 339-0816 or visit the Sleep Health Partners office at 9370 SW Greenburg Rd, Suite 422 Rd Suite 422, Portland 97223.
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9370 SW Greenburg Rd, Suite 422 Rd Suite 422, Portland, 97223