Do you think snoring is annoying, but harmless? Think again! Snoring can be an indicator of a condition that is much more serious, and can be life-theatening – sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when we actually stop breathing during sleep. With obstructive sleep apnea, this occurs because the airway actually becomes blocked during sleep, usually by the tongue as it drops to the back of the throat when we are reclined. Snoring is and indicator that the airway is partially blocked. Periods of snoring are often interrupted by complete cessation of breathing. During this time the oxygen level in the blood actually drops, and the heart works harder to keep that tissues oxygenated. Breathing often starts again with effort, and sleep is disrupted.
Not only do we wake with a feeling of restlessness, and may feel tired during the day, but there may be other issues that we do not even realize. Sleep apnea has been linked to: Hypertension, heart attack, stroke, headaches, memory issues, lack of concentration, obesity, depression, and impotence. Daytime sleepiness may lead to falling asleep while driving, a very dangerous consequence.
While sleep apnea can often be identified by your bed partner, a sleep study can measure the degree of the condition. Various treatments are available, from an air-delivery mask, to an oral appliance which repositions the jaw to prevent blockage by the tongue. In our office, we have a take-home monitor which can be used as an initial screening device. Give us a call if you would like to learn more about sleep apnea, and how we can help you.