Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder that interferes with healthy breathing patterns during sleep. It is characterized by snoring, which may be so loud that it affects the sleep quality of bed partners. Having sleep apnea can put a strain on relationships, cause daytime fatigue, and even lead to other secondary conditions like depression. Worse, severe cases of sleep apnea can be life threatening.

Though snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea, not all people who snore actually have sleep apnea. As much as 50 percent of Americans snore at some time, whether occasionally or chronically. However, only 20 percent of American adults have sleep apnea. So how do you know the difference? Harmless snoring does not interfere with breathing patterns. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, causes breathing cessations and sometimes ‘gasping’ during sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need treatment for sleep apnea?

You may need to see a doctor if you or your partner have been awakened by your chronic snoring and/or gasping for air. Though this condition can be very dangerous, your doctor can help you discover ways of managing sleep apnea and protecting healthy breathing during sleep.

How will my doctor screen for sleep apnea?

Your doctor’s first goal will be to determine whether your snoring is benign or a symptom of sleep apnea. This may be determined by speaking with you and your partner about your symptoms. If you do not have a partner who can confirm snoring or breathing interruptions, your doctor may request a sleep study.

What types of treatments are available for people with sleep apnea?

There are many ways of treating the symptoms of sleep apnea. This may include conservative approaches, such as a new sleeping position or the use of an oral appliance. If your apnea symptoms are severe or conservative treatments are not working, you may be prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) to open the airway. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Keep in mind that a diagnosis of sleep apnea is not always permanent. Many patients find that losing weight can be an effective way of opening the airway during sleep.

There are many different types of sleep apnea, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). In obstructive sleep apnea, a child struggles to inhale properly because the airway is partially collapsed. In central sleep apnea, a child’s brain fails to send signals to breathe, resulting in short periods of sleep when he or she is unable to breathe at all.

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Did you know…

between 1 and 4 percent of all children have sleep apnea? Though it can occur in kids of any age, it is most common in children between the ages of 2 and 8. Children who are overweight or have enlarged tonsils or adenoids are at the greatest risk of developing OSA, which is the most common type of sleep apnea in children. However, some kids with OSA also develop central sleep apnea – a condition known as mixed sleep apnea.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my child has sleep apnea?

A child with sleep apnea will show signs of labored breathing. Often, this includes snoring, pauses between breaths and gasping. During the day, a child with sleep apnea may be drowsy or have difficulty staying awake due to restless sleep during the night.

What should I do if I think my child has sleep apnea?

Prolonged pauses between breathing can be a serious problem in children. Bring your child to a pediatric pulmonologist for a complete evaluation and diagnosis. The doctor will examine your child and may take x-rays of the upper respiratory tract to identify any potential obstructions. In some cases, an overnight sleep study may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.

What are the treatments for sleep apnea?

Treatment for sleep apnea varies depending on the type of apnea a child has. For example, obstructive sleep apnea is typically easily resolved with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is administered at night using a specialized mask. Central sleep apnea, however, is more complicated and may require oxygen supplementation or assisted breathing to treat.

Did you know that between 1/3 and 1/2 of all adult Americans snore or have snored at some point? However, snoring – even chronically – is not necessarily indicative of sleep apnea. In fact, only 1/5 of adults have some form of sleep apnea, which can be a life-threatening condition. The difference between benign snoring and sleep apnea is that apnea patients experience cessations in their breathing patterns and may suddenly gasp for air or choke in their sleep. This can lead to severe drowsiness and fatigue during the day, as well as depression, memory loss and decreased libido. Sleep Apnea & Snoring treatment for sleep apnea and snoring usually depends on the severity of the condition and whether patients are experiencing apnea or simple snoring. Some of the most common treatments include behavioral modifications, oral sleep appliances, continuous positive airway pressure devices, and in some cases surgery.

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