Do you wake up from a full night’s rest feeling like you haven’t slept at all? Has anyone ever told you that you snore? If so, you could have sleep apnea.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, try reaching out to Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) doctor Terry Baker in Idaho Falls, Idaho or your local ENT specialist for a consultation.
Here’s what you need to know about sleep apnea and why you should seek out treatment if you think you have this condition.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder which causes you to stop breathing during multiple periods in the night. Although these periods are brief, their overall effects can add up. You tend to feel tired in the mornings because you did not receive adequate amounts of oxygen during these periods of stopped breathing.
There are two different types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Here is how they differ:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this disorder. Episodes occur when the soft tissue in the back of the throat closes off the airway.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when there is a problem in the part of your brain that controls your respiratory system. Your airways are not blocked, but your brain doesn’t get the signal to consistently breathe as you sleep.
What are the risk factors of sleep apnea?
Although anyone can develop sleep apnea, some groups of people are more likely to be affected. These risk factors include:
- Male gender
- Having neck circumference greater than 17 inches
- Having hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Middle age
- Family history of sleep apnea
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea and how is it diagnosed?
The symptoms of sleep apnea can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions. It’s important not to dismiss these symptoms as normal signs of aging. Check with your doctor if you have:
- Choking or gasping during sleep
- Feelings of tiredness after sleeping
- Frequent waking during the night to urinate
- Morning headaches
- Decreased libido
- Difficulty with concentration or memory
Sleep medicine doctors or Ear, Nose, Throat specialists perform sleep studies to diagnose sleep apnea. During the process, they must also rule out other factors such as physical illness, medications, and mental illness that could cause similar symptoms.
Sleep studies are either performed overnight in a sleep lab or conducted at home by wearing special sleep-recording devices while you sleep.
How do you treat sleep apnea?
The most common treatment device for sleep apnea is the CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure.
This small device keeps your airways open as you sleep and is connected to a mask with flexible tubing. You wear this mask while you sleep, which provides continuous gentle pressure to ensure you keep breathing.
Some people find it challenging at first to get used to the device, but that should generally go away with time and continued use.
For milder cases, sleep apnea can be treated by practicing good sleep hygiene. Try following these tips for better sleep:
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Waking up at the same time every morning (even on weekends)
- Having a relaxing before-sleep ritual
- Avoiding electronic screens for two hours before bed
- Avoiding caffeine, large meals, and alcohol before bed
Why You Shouldn’t Procrastinate on Treatment
Sleep apnea is more than just a nuisance - it’s actually a serious health problem. Untreated sleep apnea increases your risk for several other health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Sleep apnea can be a very dangerous condition, but seeking treatment for it is important for another reason - it will significantly improve your overall health by helping you get enough oxygen during sleep.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Terry Baker, you can call our office at 208-552-9530 or visit our website for more information.