If you share a bed with someone who snores, chances are you’ve spent plenty of time trying to figure out ways to get your partner to stop this annoying bodily function that keeps you awake. Perhaps you’ve tried buying them special pillows, maybe you’ve tried nose strips, or possibly you just end up nudging and kicking them in the middle of the night and pray that stops the problem. Usually, snoring is nothing to be worried about and is not related to an underlying problem. However, if the snoring occurs along with certain other problematic symptoms, you or your partner may suffer from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a common but serious sleep disorder that can occur when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. Sleep apnea can sound just like regular snoring, which makes it difficult to diagnose, but if someone is suffering some sleep apnea, their upper airway is repeatedly being blocked, which either reduces or completely stops the airflow from entering the body. So, what may sound like normal snoring could be your partner trying to catch their breath and get oxygen into their system.
There are Two Main Types of Sleep Apnea
The more common type is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is caused by a blockage in the airway, usually in the form of soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing during sleep. The second type, called Central Sleep Apnea, is less common, and more dangerous. In this case, the airway isn’t blocked. Instead, the brain simply fails to send a signal to the muscles to breathe. If left untreated, a person can potentially stop breathing hundreds of times throughout the night, which could result in the brain and the rest of the body not receiving enough oxygen. This explains why sleep apnea left untreated can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Thankfully, treatment is available for this potentially life-threatening disorder. Diagnosing sleep apnea can be difficult, so it is imperative to see an experienced Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist if you think you or your partner may be suffering from sleep apnea. Most sufferers of sleep apnea have no idea that they are even having breathing problems while they sleep. Some signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, choking sounds or gasping for breath during sleep. If a person suffers from sleep apnea, their bodies wake up periodically throughout the night when trying to catch their breath, and therefore they are usually very tired the following day. This exhaustion can increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents.
At ENT Specialists, we provide our patients with comprehensive snoring and sleep disorder evaluations, which include sleep position modification, oral appliance therapy, diagnostic and therapeutic sleep testing, and if needed, CPAP (Positive Airway Therapy) or surgical therapy. If you or a loved one is having trouble breathing, please make an appointment with us for an evaluation.