When the throat airway is constricted or partially blocked during sleep, the result is snoring. When it becomes fully obstructed, the result is a stoppage of breath known as an apnea. When apnea occurs, the sleeper’s supply of fresh air is cut off, and the body’s vital oxygen levels drop. At some point, as oxygen levels continue to fall, and carbon dioxide builds in the lungs, the body sends an emergency signal to the brain, which interrupts sleep long enough to force the throat open in a gasp for air. This blockage and involuntary reaction process is known as obstructive sleep apnea or OSA.
Persons suffering from OSA may experience anywhere from dozens to hundreds of apnea pauses per night, each lasting up to 10 seconds or more. The pause-and-reaction cycle pulls the sufferer from sleep each time it occurs. But because it takes place rather quickly, the victim usually doesn’t register the interruptions, and may think they are sleeping soundly through the night.
Aside from the telltale nighttime signs that others can hear, sleep apnea manifests itself in symptoms such as morning headaches, fatigue, irritability, difficulty paying attention and depression. Weight gain and elevated blood pressure are often linked to OSA, and long-term consequences can include an increased risks of developing cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer. Fortunately, there are proven methods for the treatment and relief of OSA symptoms.
Because OSA is a dangerous health condition, it is important to seek assistance in remedying the problem. Finding the right type of therapy can mean immediate relief not only for you, but also better sleep for bed partners as well.
Diagnostic testing for OSA and the use of oral appliances for treatment of the condition are often covered or reimbursed by private health insurance providers, and by Medicare. Our office can work with you to create a cost-effective treatment plan.