Sleep Apnea Treatment in Cary, NC
Sleep apnea is a common condition that causes interrupted, abnormal breathing during sleep. When the walls of the throat soften, narrow, and relax, breathing ceases to be rhythmic. As the throat collapses, the airway becomes blocked, sometimes for 10 seconds or more. Regularly interrupted sleep can have a huge impact on one’s quality of life and can even increase a patient’s risk of developing certain kinds of conditions.
More often than not, the symptoms of sleep apnea are first identified by a partner or roommate who notices (and hears) problems while you sleep. These signs include oscillating between periods of loud snoring, noisy and labored breathing, gasping, and snorting. A person with sleep apnea may also wake up frequently, as the lack of oxygen triggers the brain to pull the body out of deep sleep. He/she may also experience night sweats, and feel the need to urinate multiple times throughout the night. These repeated interruptions in sleep can also make a patient feel very tired throughout the day. Because breathing problems happen during sleep, patients are often unaware of any problem.
During sleep, it’s normal for the soft tissues and muscles of the throat to relax, to some degree. For the majority of people, this doesn’t lead to a complete collapse or breathing problems. However, there are a number of factors that make a person more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Being overweight or obese, for example, increases fat in the soft tissue of the neck, placing a strain on the throat muscles. Excess stomach fat can also cause breathing difficulties. Having an abnormal structure to the inner neck- such as large tonsils, a small jaw, or a narrow airway- or the nose – such as a deviated septum- can be another determinant. Sex and age are also known to play a role, though it’s not completely understood why- men and those over the age of 40 are more likely to have sleep apnea.
Beyond genetics, family history, and uncontrollable physical structure, certain habits and behaviors have also been recorded to play a major role in experiencing sleep apnea. Taking certain medications with a sedative effect, such as tranquilizers or sleep tablets, further increase the risk of throat collapse and breathing problems. Smoking and regularly consuming large amounts of alcohol, especially right before going to sleep, also worsen sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a very treatable condition with a variety of options that are able to reduce symptoms. Such options can be as simple as making lifestyle changes, like losing excess weight, cutting back on alcohol, and quitting smoking. When this doesn’t work, your doctor may recommend using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine during sleep. This class of devices prevent the airway from closing and becoming blocked during sleep by administering a continuous supply of air through a mask that is worn over the face. Mandibular advancement devices (MAD) may also be worn. These devices are worn around the teeth and shield the gums, holding both the tongue and jaw forward in order to allow for space to be maintained at the back of the throat during sleep. While these devices have been proven to help many, others may find them uncomfortable, so be sure to discuss the various options with a doctor to get more information first.
If these options don’t work, surgery might be recommended. Surgical intervention may also be appropriate for those who have a structural problem that can be corrected. However, this is normally reserved as a last resort, and most patients will see positive results from non-invasive treatment methods.