Sleep Apnea – A Sleep Disorder That Can Be Fatal

Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can be life threatening and at times deadly. People with sleep apnea often fall asleep normally however, once asleep their capacity to breathe is obstructed. Usually, this inability to breathe is caused by the muscles in the throat relaxing too much and slipping into the airway. The body then sends a signal to the brain that breathing has temporarily been blocked. This causes the person to wake up and begin breathing again.

The cycle of disrupted breathing can happen many times during the evening. These episodes may occur up to 50 times an hour and continue for ten minutes or longer. Frequently the person that suffers from this sleeping disorder is oblivious that whatever is happening to them. They cannot understand why they constantly feel tired during the daytime.

The most common form of the sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, known as OSA. Some sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from central sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is then known as mixed sleep apnea.

It is thought that obstructive sleep apnea affects between 18 – 20 percent of the adults in the USA. If this sleep disorder is left untreated it can become life threatening and in rare instances fatal. It is the underlying cause of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, pulmonary hypertension and systemic hypertension.

There are several procedures of treatments for sleep apnea, both surgical and noninvasive. The very first line of therapy for somebody suffering from moderate to severe sleep apnea is called positive airway pressure. Called PAP, positive airway pressure is a noninvasive form of treatment. A machine delivers a constant stream of air through a mask that is worn while sleeping. The force of the air circulation has to be set by means of a sleep technician during an overnight sleep study. There are three types of positive air pressure therapy, CPAP, BiPAP, and AutoPAP.

Dental devices can also be used to take care of this sleeping disorder in mild to moderate cases. Dental devices fall into two general classes: mandibular, or lower jaw, progressing devices or tongue retaining devices. Mandibular devices are used most often. They attach to the upper jaw and pull on the lower jaw and base of the tongue forward. This change in place keeps the airway open.

Medications are generally not a powerful form of treatment for most individuals with sleep apnea. However, many of them do take antidepressants and modafinil.

Supplemental oxygen is often utilized in conjunction with a PAP machine. Oxygen alone can’t stop the collapse of the airway or sleep fragmentation. However, oxygen can prevent the fall in the level of blood oxygen, which occurs when the smoke dissipates.

There are also surgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, which may be an option for some victims of the sleep disorder. These include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, Somnoplasty, corrective jaw surgery, palatal implants, and tracheostomy.

Individuals with this sleep disorder generally realize that their quality of life may improve with the correct treatment.