Are you constantly tired, even after getting seemingly enough sleep the night before? If so, this could be a symptom of a potentially dangerous sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea. Or it could be snoring, a bothersome but overall harmless sleep disorder.
Understanding the difference can help you determine when you should seek medical attention.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Experts estimate that 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, but most of them are unaware of their condition.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which your throat temporarily constricts breathing. Your brain is notified to this danger and is on high alert, commanding the lungs to breathe correctly. As oxygen enters the lungs, your brain goes back into “off-duty” mode. But then, the whole thing happens again only a few minutes later. This cycle leads to:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Morning headaches
- Sore throat immediately after waking up
- Restless sleep
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
Dr. Federico Cerrone, medical director of Sleep and Breathing Disorders at Atlantic Health System explains it best: “Basically, your body’s working all night.”
What Is Snoring?
As we age, the tissue in our upper throat starts to sag. When lying down, the saggy tissue can constrict your airway. The narrower your airway, the more force your body needs to push air out. This increase in airflow force can cause the tissue to vibrate. This leads to the hoarse or harsh sound we know as snoring.
Lifestyle causes of snoring include alcohol consumption, allergies, the common cold and even weight gain.
Snoring is sometimes a telltale sign of sleep apnea.
The Relationship Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea
According to Dr. Cerrone, “Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea—although probably a third to 40% do.” He continues, “But does everyone who has sleep apnea snore? Yes. It doesn’t have to be a house-rocking noise. It could just be a gentle puffing.”
If your bed partner complains about your snoring and you experience any of the symptoms of sleep apnea listed above, you should consult a sleep doctor.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
After a review of your medical history and a physical exam, your doctor will order a sleep study. This will be completed either overnight at a sleep study center or in your own home.
The results of the sleep study will tell your doctor the number of sleep apnea episodes you experience per hour. Those with mild sleep apnea will experience five to 15 episodes in a single hour, moderate will experience 15 to 30 and anything more is categorized as severe.
Mild sleep apnea may be treated through lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking or avoiding alcohol close to bedtime.
The most common treatment for moderate and severe sleep apnea is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
To learn more about sleep disorders, contact the experts at Topeka ENT today.