What Causes Sleep Apnea to Occur?
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OSA is characterized by complete airway obstruction. It is often found, but not limited to, older, overweight men and affects significant percentages of women and children as well. If someone in your family has OSA, you will be more likely to have it also. The serious and life-threatening problems start when sleepers begin experiencing apneas, where breathing stops, and hypopneas, where breathing is shallow due to an obstruction. Breathing is usually blocked in the back of the throat because:
- The tongue and muscles relax during sleep.
- The lower jaw falls back toward the throat.
- The airway becomes blocked.
Why Sleep Apnea Occurs
A typical sequence of OSA occurs when a person stops snoring and is silent for seconds, or minutes. The body’s oxygen level drops and the blood pressure rises. The heart is forced to beat faster, causing the pulse rate to increase. The brain may cause the arms, legs or whole body to jerk in an attempt to wake the sleeper so breathing will resume. The silence may end with a loud snort, cough or gasp. This causes the sleeper to wake briefly and begin breathing. Once asleep again, the muscles relax and the airway becomes blocked, cutting off the airway again. This cycle can occur hundreds of times per night. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It ranges in severity from mild to moderate, to severe. Other forms of sleep apnea include Central and Mixed Sleep Apnea.
Signs and Symptoms
Sleep apnea can reveal its presence in a number of ways, and each patient may have a unique combination of symptoms. If you experience any of the following recurring:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning Headaches / Migraines
- Weight Gain
- Short Term Memory Problems
- Acid Reflux
- High Blood Pressure
- Severe Anxiety
- ADD & ADHD Symptoms
- Choking/Gasping sensation that wakes you up
- Insomnia / Inability to sleep through the night
- Sore Throat / Dry Mouth
- Slow Metabolism / Inability to lose weight
- Poor job performance or problems in school
- Mouth Breathing /Difficult Nose Breathing
- Restlessness / Tossing and turning during sleep
- Impotence and/or Decreased Sex Drive
- Mood Swings / Temperamental Behavior
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring occurs when the soft tissue structures of the upper airway collapse onto themselves and vibrate against each other as we attempt to move air through them. This produces the sound we know as snoring. Large tonsils, a long soft palate, a large tongue, the uvula, and excess fat deposits in the throat all contribute to airway narrowing and snoring. Usually, the more narrow the airway space, the louder or more habitual the snoring.
Snoring Relation to Sleep Apnea
Snoring is the sound of partially obstructed breathing during sleep. While snoring can be harmless, it can also be the sign of a more serious medical condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).When Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs, the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat and completely block the airway, which restricts the flow of oxygen. The condition known as Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), is midway between primary snoring and true obstructive sleep apnea. People with UARS suffer many of the symptoms of OSA but require special sleep testing techniques.
Since OSA is a serious medical condition, it must be diagnosed by a physician. Once a diagnosis of sleep apnea is made, the severity of the dysfunction can be classified and treatment options will be given.
A sleep study gives the Top picture of how you breathe when you sleep. It provides information regarding apneas (when breathing stops) and hypopneas (when breathing is shallow due to an obstruction) as well as pulse, blood pressure and other physiological processes such as REM sleep, EEG and leg or arm jerking. Depending on your circumstances, your doctor will recommend either a PSG or an HST.
A PSG is a sleep study that is done in a sleep lab overnight and monitored by a trained sleep lab technician. The patient is hooked up with wires via sticky electrodes to the apparatus that will monitor their sleep channels. The physician associated with the sleep lab will examine the results and interpret the data collected.
Home Sleep Test (HST)
An ambulatory sleep study, or HST, is a convenient monitoring system that the patient can use in the comfort of his own bed. The HST is a small, portable unit that utilizes wireless technology. The data recorded during sleep is then downloaded to a computer the next day. This data is analyzed by a board certified sleep physician
Cone Beam Volumetric Tomography (CBVT)
Like a Medical Cat Scan, but emitting dramatically less radiation, the Cone Beam is a powerhouse of technology used to view and analyze airway passages, tissues, structure and anomalies from the neck up. A board certified oral and maxillofacial radiologist performs the CBVT read and provides an exhaustive report of all findings. Your Koala® Center uses this information to provide optimal treatment for patients as well as shares the findings with the patient’s physician to partner in patient care.