Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax during sleep, blocking the airway and interrupting normal breathing rhythm. This obstruction of the upper airway leaves a person without air for dangerous periods of time. Signs that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea include loud snoring, nighttime gasping or choking/coughing, pauses in breathing during sleep, restlessness and frequent waking. Waking symptoms may include extreme sleepiness, depressing, morning headaches and poor performance at work or school.
Prolonged sleep apnea can also increase risk for conditions such as fatigue-related accidents, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Sleep apnea can be effectively treated through a number of different options. The choice of treatment will depend on the reason for and severity of the sleep apnea. If your OSA is from being overweight, weight loss may cause that apnea to go away completely.
- CPAP – The most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a machine that provides a gentle flow of positive air pressure through a nasal mask to keep the airway open during sleep. The flow of air acts like a splint to keep the upper airway from collapsing. This helps prevent obstruction and the apnea from occurring. The air pressure is adjusted to a setting that works best to control the apnea. Often a person will also notice much less snoring when wearing a CPAP.
- Inspire Implant – An FDA-approved minimally-invasive, same day outpatient procedure. A small device is implanted under the skin to keep key airways open during sleep and sync with your natural breathing. The device is activated with a remote control before going to sleep and can be switched off upon waking up. It prevents any obstruction from the inside out by opening the airway every time a breath is taken.
- Removable Devices – Some oral appliances or devices that are worn in the mouth during sleep may help to keep your airway open. Most oral devices work by either bringing the jaw forward or keeping the tongue from blocking the throat. Oral appliances are most likely used to help a person who has mild sleep apnea and who is not overweight. The devices are usually custom made and fitted under the supervision of a specialized dentist or oral surgeon who has worked with these problems.