Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing throughout the sleep cycle. It can lead to poor sleep quality and a host of other health problems if left untreated. So, is sleep apnea curable? And what are the latest sleep apnea treatment options? This article aims to provide answers to these crucial questions.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea affects millions of people around the world. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA); as well as a less common type called complex sleep apnea. All three types can lead to a variety of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, so it’s important to seek treatment if you suspect you may have sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. This stoppage of breathing happens when the throat muscles in the upper airway intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep.
A noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, and not everyone who has sleep apnea snores. Other noticeable sleep apnea symptoms can include changes in breathing patterns during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating during the day, high blood pressure, night sweats, and even episodes of waking up abruptly gasping for air during the night.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is a less common type of sleep apnea that involves disruptions in breathing during sleep due to the way the brain functions. In contrast to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which occurs due to physical blockages in the airway, CSA arises from communication issues between the brain and the muscles that control breathing.
In CSA, the brain fails to send the necessary signals to your breathing muscles to stimulate respiration, causing you to miss breathing cycles while you sleep. You might awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is a form of sleep apnea where both obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA) are present. This condition is typically discovered when a person with what appears to be OSA continues to have apnea events during sleep studies, despite receiving treatment such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy that is successfully eliminating the obstructive events.
Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to a range of health complications. People with sleep apnea are more prone to:
- Heart problems: Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, both of which increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
- Type 2 diabetes: Sleep apnea can increase insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Depression: Sleep disruptions caused by sleep apnea can lead to feelings of depression, irritability, and mood swings.
- Poor immune function: Chronic sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to common infections.
- Impaired brain function: Prolonged sleep disruption can affect cognitive function, leading to issues with concentration, memory, and decision-making.
Who is Most Susceptible to Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, but certain factors can increase your risk.
- Excess weight: Obesity significantly increases the risk of OSA. Fat deposits can cause airway obstruction.
- Being male: Men are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than women. However, the risk for women increases if they’re overweight, and the risk rises after menopause.
- Age: Sleep apnea occurs significantly more frequently in older adults.
- Family history: Having family members with sleep apnea might increase your risk.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers: These substances can relax the muscles in your throat.
- Smoking: Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than people who’ve never smoked. Smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
Is Sleep Apnea Curable?
While sleep apnea can be a chronic condition that requires long-term management, certain treatments can significantly reduce symptoms and improve overall health. In some cases, changes in lifestyle and habits can effectively “cure” mild sleep apnea. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s condition is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Common treatments for sleep apnea include weight loss, continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP), oral appliances designed to keep the airway open, and in severe cases, surgical procedures.
However, the field of sleep medicine has seen significant advancements in recent years. Let’s take a look at some of the newest sleep apnea treatment options for moderate to severe sleep apnea.
- BiPAP Device: The BiPAP device is similar to a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device in that it delivers pressurized air through a mask to help keep the airways open during sleep. However, unlike a CPAP that provides a single level of pressure, a BiPAP provides two levels of pressure:
- Oral Pressure Therapy: This treatment uses a vacuum device fitted in the mouth that pulls the soft palate forward and stabilizes the tongue to keep the airway open.
- Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation: This treatment involves surgically implanting a device that stimulates the nerve controlling the tongue’s movements, keeping the airway open. The device operates on a cycle aligned with the patient’s breathing while they sleep.
- Other Surgeries: Additional surgeries to treat moderate sleep apnea include, jaw surgery, nasal surgery, tonsil and adenoid removal, and soft palate implants
Reduce Your Symptoms of Sleep Apnea With Help From the Sleep Specialists at Healthy Sleep Midwest
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to excessive fatigue, headaches, and even more severe health problems. At Healthy Sleep Midwest, we can help you manage and reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. Our team of experts can provide personalized treatment plans that may include lifestyle changes, medical devices, or even surgery, depending on the severity of the condition. With our help, patients can once again enjoy restful sleep and a better quality of life.