Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes lapses in breathing during sleep. These pauses in breath last 10 to 30 seconds on average and can happen as many as 400 times a night. The repeated interruption in oxygen causes lower-quality sleep and increases health risks.
Fortunately, sleep apnea is treatable. If you’re diagnosed with or suspect that you may have sleep apnea, you have options for treatment. Internal medicine physician and sleep apnea specialist Samuel I. Fink, MD, has extensive experience helping patients manage this sleep disorder.
Types of sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of the disorder. It happens when your airway becomes blocked, causing temporary pauses in breathing. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is much less common and occurs when there’s a problem with the part of your brain that controls breathing.
Sleep apnea symptoms
Many people have symptoms associated with sleep apnea without being aware of it. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Problems concentrating
- Unexplained fatigue
Waking up with a dry mouth or a sore throat and loud snoring are other symptoms of sleep apnea. Keep in mind that snoring is also common in people without sleep apnea, so it’s smart to see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis.
Causes of sleep apnea
Various factors contribute to sleep apnea. In terms of OSA, being overweight is the overwhelming contributing factor. Excess fatty tissue in your neck can affect your airway when you’re relaxed and sleeping. Sleeping on your back increases the risk of OSA, and people with a family history of OSA are more likely to develop it themselves.
In CSA, conditions that affect certain parts of the brain, such as stroke, can lead to sleep apnea.
Health risks of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea can lead to sleep deprivation from constant nightly interruptions and shallower overall sleep, and it has many health risks, making it crucial to see a specialist and get prompt treatment. Here are some of the ways sleep apnea can affect your health when left untreated.
High blood pressure
Repeated drops in oxygen put a strain on your cardiovascular system. People with sleep apnea are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Type 2 diabetes
Your body regulates important hormones while you’re sleeping, and the oxygen disruption caused by sleep apnea can throw your hormones out of whack. If you have sleep apnea, you’re at an increased risk for developing insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
People with sleep apnea also have a higher risk for stroke. The more severe your sleep apnea, the greater the risk. Even people with mild sleep apnea are at an elevated risk of stroke.
Treatment options for sleep apnea
Effective treatment can improve your sleep and reduce your long-term risks associated with sleep apnea. For some people, weight loss is enough to resolve sleep apnea. Dr. Fink can counsel you on lifestyle changes that support losing weight.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines are the most common treatments for moderate to severe sleep apnea. These machines keep oxygen flowing into your airway during sleep and help to keep your airway open.
Customized appliances that hold your jaw in a certain position are a treatment option for people who have anatomical causes of sleep apnea.
For people with CSA, managing the underlying condition can help to improve sleep apnea. Regardless of the cause, Dr. Fink works with you to improve your sleep apnea so you sleep and function better.
Rely on our team to provide expert help in treating sleep apnea. To schedule a visit with Dr. Fink, call our office in Tarzana, California, or request an appointment online today.