When I was growing up, my dad always snored. My room was right next to my parents' room, so I could hear it through the wall. Family vacations where we would always stay in the same room were always full of loud snoring and sleepless nights. We laugh about it now, but I'm pretty sure my dad suffered from sleep apnea.
I've always wondered about sleep apnea and snoring. Does everyone who snores have sleep apnea? I talked to Dr. Matthew Hensler with The Christ Hospital Physicians – Ear, Nose & Throat to learn more about restless nights and ways to treat sleep apnea.
What is sleep apnea?
Dr. Hensler said, “Broadly speaking, sleep apnea is a medical condition where a patient will partially or completely stop breathing while sleeping. This is generally broken up into two types — central and obstructive sleep apnea.
“Central apnea is an uncommon condition where your brain and body make no effort or attempt to breathe, and the causes are sometimes not completely understood.
“Obstructive apnea is partial or complete blockage of airflow in the upper airway. This can occur at various locations, such as the nose, palate, tonsils, base of tongue or voice box, and occurs when tissues collapse in a relaxed state of sleep."
Do I have sleep apnea?
To find out if you have sleep apnea, a sleep study will be done. The purpose of the sleep study is to objectively assess someone's sleep, particularly if there is a history of heavy snoring, pauses in breathing while sleeping, or overall poor sleep quality. Some signs of poor sleep quality may include difficulty falling/maintaining sleep, restless sleep, changes in mood or daytime fatigue.
I learned from Dr. Hensler that not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. I always felt like that was a major sign that you suffered from sleep apnea.
He told me, “It is also the case that not everyone with sleep apnea snores. Snoring occurs when airflow leads to vibration of tissue within the upper airway during sleep. Obstructive breathing during sleep can run a full range from mild, noisy breathing with minimal obstruction to complete obstruction with no noise or snoring. The condition can also fluctuate throughout the night, from one night to the next."
You definitely do not want to sleep (pun intended LOL) on getting checked for sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a variety of health conditions. Several studies have shown an association between sleep apnea and high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks. Excessive daytime sleepiness due to poor sleep quality can contribute to mental illness as well.
What are the treatments for sleep apnea?
Treatment for sleep apnea can differ from person to person, but Dr. Hensler said that a CPAP is most common. He explained, “CPAP is considered the gold standard form of therapy for most forms of sleep apnea. If patients do not tolerate CPAP, it often depends upon the severity of the sleep apnea when discussing specific devices. Oral appliances or positional therapy may be an option for milder forms of sleep apnea.
“Surgery is also an option for those who do not tolerate CPAP. With regards to devices, a newer form of therapy, called hypoglossal nerve stimulator implantation, also known as Inspire, has shown good results for patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea."
Tried CPAP without much benefit? Call The Christ Hospital Physicians at 513-421-5558 to see if you might be a candidate for Inspire.