Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Talk to your primary care doctor if you or your bed partner notice symptoms such as:
- Waking up gasping for air
- Frequent, brief awakenings during the night
- Daytime fatigue, headaches, irritability, loss of libido or trouble concentrating because you don’t sleep well
Sleep apnea means you don’t breathe properly when you sleep. Over time, this can lead to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, depression and other chronic conditions.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Your physician may order a sleep study that uses technology to monitor your breathing and other vital signs overnight. You might use equipment that you can take home to gather the data, or you might spend the night in a comfortable bedroom at AnMed Lung & Sleep Center.
If you show clear signs of severe sleep apnea at our sleep center, a technologist may wake you and provide a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask to wear. This device delivers air pressure to help keep open your airway. Your technologist will gradually adjust the air pressure to find the level that helps you breathe and sleep best. This is called a split-night study.
If your sleep apnea is less severe, you may not receive a diagnosis until after a sleep doctor reviews the full night’s worth of data about your breathing. In that case, we may recommend you come back to the sleep center for another overnight study to find the right settings for your CPAP device. This is called a CPAP titration study.
Treating Sleep Apnea
Positive airway pressure is the most common treatment for both:
- Obstructive sleep apnea – Caused by blocked airways
- Central sleep apnea – Caused by an interruption in the respiratory feedback loop
A local medical equipment retailer will provide your device, teach you how to use it and give you tips on how to comfortably wear the mask at night.
Other Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
If CPAP therapy doesn’t work well for you, talk to your health care provider about these alternative treatments for your blocked airways.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Some dentists and orthodontists can fit you with a small device that holds your tongue in place or slides your jaw forward to help you breathe more easily. The appliance might look like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer.
Ask your doctor for a referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon, who can help you explore options for improving airflow into your body. The surgeon may be able to reshape your nose or remove extra tissue in your throat to let air pass more freely into your lungs.
Upper Airway Stimulation
The newest treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is the Inspire® procedure. If you qualify for this treatment, a surgeon will place a small nerve stimulator in your chest. When you click a button on a remote control at bedtime, the device sends a gentle pulse to a nerve that controls your tongue, keeping it out of the way of your airflow.