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Sleep apnea: what is it? Professionals discuss typical symptoms and how to treat them.

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CPAP machines, surgical procedures, and styrofoam pillows are three distinct elements that can be discussed in the context of medical interventions. CPAP machines are devices used to treat sleep apnea by delivering continuous positive airway pressure. In. this article, sleep experts provide comprehensive information on sleep apnea.

Picture yourself comfortably nestled in your preferred sleepwear, settling into bed, poised to embark on a tranquil slumber. However, your repose is disrupted as you are abruptly awakened, experiencing a sudden intake of breath accompanied by a sense of alarm. Sleep apnea is a prevalent condition affecting approximately 30 million individuals in the United States. Although it may resemble a distressing experience, it is unfortunate for many. According to the American Medical Association, the number of individuals who have received an accurate diagnosis for the condition is a mere 6 million.

However, although there is a general awareness of the condition, particularly following recent reports of President Biden utilizing a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine for sleep apnea treatment, there may still be some confusion regarding specific details. Yahoo Life sought insights from sleep experts to explain the subject matter.

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1. The interruption of breathing during sleep is what sleep apnea is all about.

As per the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep apnea is characterized by the repetitive cessation and resumption of breathing during sleep. This occurs due to the partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway, which facilitates air passage to the lungs. The anatomical structures in this category consist of the oral cavity, nasal passages, pharynx (also known as the throat), and larynx (commonly referred to as the vocal box).

The condition can be classified into two distinct types. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a prevalent type of sleep apnea characterized by the obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, as previously mentioned. The second type, known as central sleep apnea (CSA), differs from the first in that it is primarily associated with brain receptors rather than physical blockage. Sleep apnea occurs when there is a lack of communication between the brain and the muscles responsible for regulating breathing, resulting in periodic disruptions in sleep.

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According to Dr. Andrew Varga, a neuroscientist, and physician at the Mount Sinai Integrative Sleep Center, in the case of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the closure of the upper airway leads to insufficient oxygen intake by the body. This lack of oxygen can prompt an immediate response from our body, causing us to wake up.

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The pharynx experiences heightened pressure, prompting the activation of mechanical receptors that initiate a reflexive response to the brain, signaling the presence of this sensation. The individual elucidates that the body’s innate reaction is to awaken and clear the air passage.

Sleep apnea: what is it? Professionals discuss typical symptoms and how to treat them
It is believed that 30 million American adults have sleep apnea, although only 6 million have been diagnosed.

2. Snoring, headaches, and emotional swings are all possible side effects.

According to Dr. Bhanu Kolla, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Center for Sleep Medicine, loud and disruptive snoring is a frequently observed symptom associated with sleep apnea. However, it is crucial to understand that although snoring is commonly linked to the condition, the presence of snoring does not necessarily indicate the presence of sleep apnea in all individuals.

Additional symptoms may include experiencing “choking or gasping spells” while asleep, experiencing morning headaches caused by insufficient oxygen during the night, and feeling excessive sleepiness or fatigue during the day, as mentioned by Kolla. These episodes are frequently reported by individuals other than the person experiencing them, such as bed partners, as the individual with sleep apnea is typically unaware of these occurrences.

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Common symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) include mood changes, such as depression or irritability resulting from insufficient sleep, and experiencing dry mouth or sore throat upon waking due to open-mouth breathing.

3. A sleep study is necessary for a correct diagnosis.

After a comprehensive assessment, which usually involves consulting with a primary-care physician and subsequently a sleep medicine specialist (such as an internist, pulmonologist, cardiologist, otolaryngologist, or neurologist), a sleep study, referred to as a polysomnogram, will be conducted by the physician to diagnose and treat sleep apnea.

Various physiological parameters were measured on a sleeping patient during the study conducted in a sleep laboratory. These parameters include brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, breathing patterns, oxygen levels, and body positions. According to Kolla, this technology aids physicians in identifying instances of interrupted or halted breathing during sleep, as well as potential occurrences of reduced oxygen levels and changes in brain-wave activity.

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The specialist evaluates the frequency of these breathing events by interpreting the obtained results. According to Kolla, a diagnosis of sleep apnea is typically made when these occurrences happen frequently, typically exceeding five times per hour.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, at-home sleep apnea tests are available but necessitate a telemedicine appointment and prescription. These tests are deemed to be less comprehensive than the evaluations conducted in sleep labs.

4. The CPAP machine is just one of many possible treatments.

The CPAP machine is widely recognized as the optimal and highly efficient method for addressing sleep apnea.

According to Varga, the machine functions similarly to an enhanced hair dryer. The air utilized is derived from the surrounding environment, which has been heated and saturated with moisture. It is important to note that this air does not contain additional oxygen or other substances. The air pressure generated by this process is then employed to maintain the openness of the airway.

The CPAP machine utilizes a tube connected to a mask positioned over the nose and mouth. The machine delivers pressurized air into the upper airway by directing airflow through this tube. This action effectively maintains the patency of the soft tissue, preventing any partial or complete closure. According to Kolla, when performed accurately, the machine has the potential to address snoring and other respiratory irregularities. Additionally, it can enhance the quality of sleep and daytime performance.

However, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is not the sole treatment modality.

The individual is in a state of sleep while utilizing a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask.

Another potential treatment option is using an oral appliance device, such as a mouth guard, which a dentist prescribes. This device moves the lower jaw forward by a few millimeters, generating extra space at the back of the throat. Kolla further suggests this approach. Weight loss, sleeping on the side, and certain upper airway surgeries effectively alleviate or eliminate sleep apnea. Additionally, the use of positional devices, such as Styrofoam pillows, can help maintain a more comfortable breathing position by supporting the airway.

There are surgical alternatives available as well. One such option is a procedure that can be completed in just 15 minutes. This procedure involves the removal of the uvula and a portion of the soft palate. Its purpose is to widen the airway, thereby improving the individual’s ability to breathe effectively. Varga provides this information.

Although no medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating sleep apnea, a significant development occurred in February. The FDA expedited the approval process for an oral treatment designed for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This groundbreaking medication is expected to be available in the market by 2024.

5. gender, age, and pre-existing conditions each have a significant impact.

Based on data provided by the Mayo Clinic, it has been observed that the prevalence of sleep apnea is higher in men, with a two to three times greater likelihood than in women. Nevertheless, the risk for women is heightened by factors such as being overweight or experiencing post-menopause.

According to Varga, the condition’s occurrence in women remains slightly lower than that in men, even after menopause. There is a notable escalation in severity as individuals age, regardless of gender, until approximately 65. Subsequently, it reaches a plateau.

In the context of OSA, Varga highlights several factors that commonly contribute to the condition. These include obesity, nasal congestion, alcohol or sedative consumption, neck size (individuals with thicker necks may have narrower airways), smoking, and enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

In the context of CSA, Varga suggests that health conditions affecting the airway and chest muscles, such as neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and congestive heart failure, may also contribute to the occurrence of CSA. The condition may also impact individuals using opioid painkillers, smoke, or are exposed to high-altitude environments that can potentially induce periodic breathing.

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