Sleep Apnea FAQ

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. This can happen dozens of times per hour and can disrupt your sleep and cause a variety of health problems.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Other symptoms include:

  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or headache
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Accidents

Who is at risk for sleep apnea?

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, but certain people are more at risk, including:

  • People who are overweight or obese
  • Men
  • People over the age of 40
  • People with a family history of sleep apnea
  • People with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes
  • People who smoke
  • People who drink alcohol
  • People who have had their tonsils or adenoids removed
  • People who have a narrow airway

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

The gold standard test for diagnosing sleep apnea is a sleep study, also known as a polysomnography. This test records your breathing, heart rate, and brain waves while you sleep.

How is sleep apnea treated?

There are a variety of treatments for sleep apnea, including:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): This is a machine that delivers pressurized air through a mask that you wear over your nose and mouth. CPAP is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.
  • Oral appliances: These devices can help to keep your airway open during sleep.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be an option for people who do not respond to other treatments.
  • Lifestyle changes: Several lifestyle changes can help to improve sleep apnea, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol before bed.

What are the complications of untreated sleep apnea?

If sleep apnea is not treated, it can lead to a variety of health problems, including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Accidents
  • Sudden cardiac death

What are the signs and symptoms of untreated sleep apnea in children?

The signs and symptoms of untreated sleep apnea in children may include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Frequent night wakings
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Learning problems
  • Behavior problems
  • Poor growth

What are the causes of sleep apnea?

The exact cause of sleep apnea is not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • A narrow airway
  • Relaxation of the muscles in the back of the throat during sleep
  • Increased tissue in the back of the throat
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes

What are the risk factors for sleep apnea?

The risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Age: Sleep apnea is more common in adults over the age of 40.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
  • Weight: People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop sleep apnea.
  • Family history: People who have a family history of sleep apnea are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Alcohol use: Alcohol use can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Certain medications: Certain medications, such as sedatives and tranquilizers, can increase the risk of sleep apnea.

How can I prevent sleep apnea?

There is no sure way to prevent sleep apnea, but there are many things you can do to lower your risk, including:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid alcohol before bed
  • Treat underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Use a humidifier in your bedroom
  • Sleep on your side
  • See a doctor if you have any concerns about your sleep.

What are the different types of sleep apnea?

There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA).

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax during sleep, narrowing the airway and blocking airflow.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This type of sleep apnea is less common than OSA.

There is also a third type of sleep apnea called complex sleep apnea syndrome (CSAS). This occurs when a person has both OSA and CSA.

What are the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

The most common symptom of OSA is loud snoring. Other symptoms may include:

  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or headache
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Accidents

What are the symptoms of central sleep apnea (CSA)?

The symptoms of CSA are similar to those of OSA, but they may be less severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath during sleep
  • I wake up gasping for air
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

The gold standard test for diagnosing sleep apnea is a sleep study, also known as a polysomnography. This test records your breathing, heart rate, and brain waves while you sleep.

How is sleep apnea treated?

The treatment for sleep apnea depends on the type of sleep apnea you have. Treatment options for OSA include:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): This is a machine that delivers pressurized air through a mask that you wear over your nose and mouth. CPAP is the most effective treatment for OSA.
  • Oral appliances: These devices can help to keep your airway open during sleep.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be an option for people who do not respond to other treatments.

Treatment options for CSA include:

  • Medications: Certain medications can help to improve breathing during sleep.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be an option for people who do not respond to other treatments.
  • Lifestyle changes: Some lifestyle changes can help to improve CSA, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol before bed.

What are the risks of untreated sleep apnea?

If sleep apnea is not treated, it can lead to many health problems, including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Accidents
  • Sudden cardiac death

What are the chances of sleep apnea going away on its own?

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition, and it is unlikely to go away on its own. However, several treatments can help to improve sleep apnea and its symptoms.

What are the things I can do to improve my sleep if I have sleep apnea?

There are many things you can do to improve your sleep if you have sleep apnea, including:

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
  • See a doctor if you have any concerns about your sleep.

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