It’s easy to take for granted that you breathe consistently throughout the day. You don’t have to think about inhaling and exhaling, because the body has built-in functions that help to regulate the flow of oxygen into the lungs. But just because you can breathe easily during the day, doesn’t always mean that your airway is open and comfortable when you lay down to sleep at night.
If you are concerned about chronic snoring or sleep apnea, then you shouldn’t delay a visit to talk to an ENT about your health condition. These sleeping problems can be dangerous and should be treated as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is common and affects as many as one in 15 people. While sleeping, breathing patterns can be disrupted as the soft tissue in the mouth and throat relax, causing a person’s airway to collapse completely, their oxygen level to fall in their bloodstream, and then causing them to awaken enough to take a deep, gasping breath. Many times, the person doesn’t realize they have a problem since the symptoms of sleep apnea happens when they and their bed partner are asleep. But some tell-tale signs can let you know something may be off.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Adults
You might recognize a few of these symptoms in yourself. Or, talk to a sleeping partner or roommate to see if they notice any of these signs:
- Snoring: Not only is snoring inconvenient for other people sleeping in the room, but loud snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea snoring can be differentiated from other types of snoring in several ways. People with sleep apnea tend to snore more loudly and consistently. The snores often have a choking sound with audible snorts, paired with frequent gasping for air between the snoring sounds.
- Sleepiness (Hypersomnia): No matter how much you sleep at night, you wake up feeling tired and drowsy. If you have a hard time shaking the grogginess in the morning or you often fall asleep during the day, it could be an indication of sleep apnea.
- Feeling Unwell: How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Grogginess isn’t the only sign of sleep apnea. You might notice other general wellness concerns, such as a dry mouth and throat, sore throat, or headaches every morning.
- Choking and Gasping: Have you ever woken up gasping for air or feeling short of breath? This choking feeling isn’t normal while sleeping.
- Bathroom: Waking up frequently during the night to use the bathroom can be a sign of sleep apnea.
- Insomnia: Some people have symptoms that disrupt sleep through insomnia, restlessness at night, or waking up frequently. These symptoms are more common in women than in men.
- Mental Changes: Sleep apnea can affect cognitive function and mood. Watch for signs such as depression, anxiety, memory problems, or a loss of interest in sex.
You may be experiencing one or more of the above symptoms. If you suspect that you are experiencing sleep apnea, talk to a qualified doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children
Children can experience some of the sleep apnea symptoms listed above. But sometimes unique symptoms are displayed in school-age children:
- Behavioral issues, including poor attention span & hyperactivity
- Learning problems, often showing in poor performance at school
- Mouth breathing, while asleep or awake
- Breathing pauses while sleeping
Often, children don’t understand they are having problems sleeping, so they don’t talk about these symptoms. Parents can pay attention to their sleeping patterns, as well as general moodiness and other issues with sleep patterns.
Why You Shouldn’t Procrastinate About Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep apnea doesn’t seem to be disrupting your life too much, so why is it necessary to talk to an ENT about your symptoms? The truth is that untreated sleep apnea can lead to a variety of health complications. These resulting health issues include:
- Heart diseases, such as heart attack, arrhythmia, or heart flutters
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive impairment
- Diabetes (type 2)
Untreated sleep apnea could also increase the risk of traffic or work accidents during the day. For example, if you are drowsy because of poor sleep patterns, you could be involved in a traffic accident due to falling asleep while driving. The consequences of sleep apnea can be deadly.
Types of Sleep Apnea
The diagnosis is essential for treating the type of sleep apnea you are experiencing. This diagnosis will enable the ENT to design the right treatment plan for your situation. The two types of sleep apnea include Central Sleep Apnea and Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Central Sleep Apnea
Nerves play a role in how your diaphragm affects your breathing rhythm. If something disrupts the nerve function, it can have an impact on breathing patterns. The risk of Central Sleep Apnea increases in people with heart problems, or take opiate medications, or have experienced a stroke.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This type of sleep apnea is the most common and occurs when there is a partial or complete blockage in the airway. The risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea increases for people over the age of 40, overweight, and male. The risk also increases due to family history and certain medical concerns, such as nasal obstruction, reflux (GERD), or a large neck and tonsils.
Obesity and Sleep Apnea
It has been found that obesity is the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity is an epidemic; as a result, sleep apnea is on the rise. If you are overweight and have any symptoms listed above, then an ENT doctor should be consulted right away.
Not only can an ENT assist with immediate treatment to help avoid the danger of sleep apnea, but you can also discuss lifestyle factors that can reduce your risk in the future. Weight loss should be an important part of your treatment plan and can have a positive impact on reducing the risk of other chronic health conditions as well.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
Diagnostic tests might include a discussion about the symptoms of sleep apnea and/or sleep tests to measure various body functions while you are sleeping. These sleep tests can be used to gather data on breathing patterns, brain/heart/lung activity, blood oxygen levels, and arm/leg movements.
The recommended treatment will depend on the type of sleep apnea you are experiencing, as well as the severity of your condition. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is usually treated by an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor. Central Sleep Apnea might require treatment through a cardiologist, pulmonologist, or neurologist to identify the cause and treatment options.
Commonly, a CPAP machine can be used to open your airway while sleeping. This machine is worn over the mouth and nose and delivers air while you are sleeping to keep the windpipe open.
Other treatment options might include dental appliances worn at night to reposition the jaw and tongue to keep the airway open. Lifestyle factors can also play a role in decreasing symptoms. For example, your ENT might recommend weight loss, changing your sleeping habits, and adjusting your sleeping position.
Regular consultations with your doctor are important in monitoring the effectiveness of your treatment plan. Adjustments can be implemented as necessary.
Talk to an ENT Near You about Sleep Apnea
Do you need to visit an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor for sleep apnea treatment? Often, a person schedules an appointment with an ENT specialist because a roommate or bed partner notices the disruptive sleep pattern. If you are having trouble breathing while sleeping, a consultation with a specialist can help. Sometimes, the recommendations to visit an ENT come from a doctor or cardiologist referral.
An ENT specialist is a great resource if you or someone you love is suffering from sleep apnea. If you are in the Dallas or Denton area, talk to our experienced team at Collin County Ear, Nose, and Throat. We offer comprehensive sleep apnea services and invite you to contact us to schedule an appointment. Our two convenient locations are available in Frisco and Plano, TX.