What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing, called apneas, can last for seconds or even minutes and occur multiple times throughout the night. The two most common types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea and occurs when the muscles in the throat relax excessively during sleep, leading to a partial or complete blockage of the airway.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): CSA is less common and involves the brain failing to send the appropriate signals to the muscles responsible for breathing.

Both types of sleep apnea can result in fragmented sleep, loud snoring, and excessive daytime sleepiness, as well as more severe health risks such as cardiovascular problems, hypertension, and cognitive impairments.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea comes with several symptoms, which include the following:

  • Loud snoring: One of the most prominent signs of sleep apnea is loud and persistent snoring. While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, the snoring associated with sleep apnea is often louder and more disruptive.
  • Pauses in breathing: Witnessed apneas, where another individual observes that you stop breathing during sleep and then gasp for air, are telltale signs of sleep apnea. These pauses can last for many seconds and can recur throughout the night.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness: Individuals with sleep apnea often experience excessive daytime sleepiness, regardless of the amount of time spent in bed. This can lead to difficulty staying awake during daily activities, such as work, driving, or watching TV.
  • Morning headaches: Waking up with a headache, particularly in the morning, is a common symptom of sleep apnea. This headache is often described as a dull, throbbing sensation.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Sleep apnea can impair cognitive function, making it challenging to focus, concentrate, and remember things. This can impact performance at work or school.
  • Irritability and mood changes: Sleep apnea can contribute to irritability, mood swings, and feelings of frustration or depression. Disrupted sleep patterns can affect emotional well-being.
  • Frequent nighttime urination: Some individuals with sleep apnea may experience nocturia, a condition characterized by waking up frequently during the night to urinate. Sleep apnea-related awakenings can disrupt normal sleep cycles.
  • Dry mouth or sore throat: Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat is common among those with sleep apnea. This can be a result of mouth breathing or snoring during the night.
  • Restless sleep: Sleep apnea can lead to restless and fragmented sleep. You may find yourself tossing and turning or waking up frequently throughout the night.
  • Decreased libido: Sleep apnea can affect sexual function and libido, leading to decreased interest in intimate relationships.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): Untreated sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. It can be challenging to control blood pressure when sleep apnea is present.
  • Gasping or choking: Some individuals with sleep apnea may experience episodes of gasping or choking during sleep as they try to resume normal breathing.

It's important to note that the severity and combination of symptoms can vary among individuals with sleep apnea. Not everyone with sleep apnea will exhibit all of these symptoms, and some individuals may not be aware of their own symptoms because they occur during sleep.

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, especially loud snoring and witnessed apneas, it's essential to seek evaluation and diagnosis from a sleep specialist. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly improve sleep quality and overall health, reducing the risk of complications associated with untreated sleep apnea.

Ignoring the symptoms of sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues, including cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and cognitive impairments. By addressing sleep apnea, you can enjoy restful nights and improved overall well-being.

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Schedule a Consultation

If you suspect you or someone you know may have sleep apnea, contact Texas ENT Specialists to schedule a consultation with a sleep specialist. A comprehensive evaluation and proper diagnosis are the first steps toward effective treatment and improved sleep quality.

    What are the Treatments for Sleep Apnea?

    The choice of treatment for sleep apnea depends on the severity of the condition, its underlying causes, and patient preferences. At TENTS, our sleep apnea doctors will fully evaluate your condition to determine the ideal treatment approach. The options include:

    Lifestyle Modifications

    • Weight loss: If obesity contributes to your sleep apnea, losing weight can significantly improve symptoms. Even a modest reduction in weight can make a difference.
    • Positional therapy: Some individuals experience sleep apnea primarily when sleeping on their back. Sleeping on your side may help reduce apnea events.
    • Avoiding alcohol and sedatives: These substances can relax the throat muscles and worsen sleep apnea. Avoiding them, especially in the evening, may be beneficial.

    Surgical interventions

    • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This surgical procedure involves the removal of excess tissue from the throat to widen the airway.
    • Genioglossus Advancement (GA): GA repositions the tongue attachment to prevent airway collapse.
    • Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA): MMA repositions the upper and lower jaw to enlarge the airway.
    • Inspire therapy: A surgically implanted device stimulates the hypoglossal nerve, controlling tongue movement and preventing airway collapse.

    Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) 

    • BiPAP Therapy: BiPAP is similar to CPAP but provides two different levels of air pressure: one for inhalation and another for exhalation. It is often used for individuals who have difficulty exhaling against CPAP pressure.

    Oral appliances

    • Oral appliances: Oral appliances, also known as mandibular advancement devices, can be prescribed to reposition the lower jaw and tongue, helping to keep the airway open. They are especially useful for individuals with mild to moderate sleep apnea who prefer a non-invasive option.

    Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

    • CPAP therapy: CPAP is a highly effective treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask that delivers a continuous stream of air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep.
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    Need help with sleep apnea?

    If you suspect you have sleep apnea or have already been diagnosed, it's essential to seek professional guidance. A sleep specialist can perform a comprehensive evaluation, recommend appropriate testing, and work with you to develop a personalized plan for sleep apnea treatment in Houston tailored to your specific needs.

    Don't let sleep apnea compromise your health and well-being. Contact Texas ENT Specialists in Houston to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward breathing easy and enjoying restful nights.

    With 15 convenient locations across the greater Houston area, we’re never far away.

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