Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Q & A

What’s sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing while sleeping. If left untreated, it robs the body and brain of oxygen. Severe sleep apnea can put a person's life at risk.

What are the different types of sleep apnea?

There are 2 types of sleep apnea. These are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Central sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common and occurs when the airway becomes blocked, often because the tissue in the back of the throat collapses while sleeping. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn't signal the muscles to breathe. Ear Nose and Throat Specialists of Connecticut assists primarily with obstructive sleep apnea, as it involves the throat and airway. Central sleep apnea may require the help of a neurologist.

Who is at risk for sleep apnea?

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, including children, but certain risk factors increase a person's risk of the condition. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Being male
  • Being 40 or older
  • A large neck
  • Large tonsils or a large tongue
  • Small jaw bone
  • Family history
  • GERD
  • Nasal obstruction

Patients who have these risks factors should talk to either their primary care provider or Ear Nose and Throat Specialists of Connecticut to evaluate whether or not they have sleep apnea.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

One of the frightening things about sleep apnea is the fact that it occurs during sleep, so many patients aren't aware they have the condition. Some common symptoms to watch for include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Loud irregular snoring
  • Falling asleep while watching television or at the movie theater
  • Falling asleep while driving
  • Restlessness while sleeping
  • Forgetfulness, mood changes, and lack of libido

Patients who notice these symptoms shouldn't ignore them, but should get tested for sleep apnea.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Diagnosing sleep apnea involves a sleep study to determine if the patient isn't breathing while sleeping. A sleep study, or polysomnogram, uses electronic transmitters to monitor activities and movements while someone sleeps.

How is sleep apnea treated?

Patients with sleep apnea may need to sleep with a CPAP machine to ensure they don't stop breathing. Losing weight, avoiding certain medications, changing sleep positions, and stopping smoking can also help. Call Ear Nose and Throat Specialists of Connecticut for more information about how to control sleep apnea.

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