What is Sleep Apnea?
Firstly, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the term for when the airway collapses, either partially or fully, while someone is asleep. As a result this limits or blocks the ability for air to flow into the lungs, and as the person continues to try and breathe, the airway constricts further, no matter how hard they try to keep breathing.
Secondly, when the airway is completely (or mostly) blocked it will result in the person changing the position of their tongue, jaw, or entire body so that the airway is now open. After that it is usually is followed by the person gasping or snorting. Finally, the person affected will begin this process again.
Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI)
Thirdly, the severity of a persons sleep apnea is usually determined by the AHI (apnea Hypopnea Index) which is a measurement of how many times per hour the persons airway is partially or fully restricted reducing or eliminating airflow. AHI is classified by severity as follows:
- Normal – Less than 5
- Mild – Between 5 & 15
- Moderate – Between 15 & 30
- Severe – Greater than 30
In conclusion, based on these numbers a person with severe sleep apnea has an AHI of over 30, therefore they stop breathing or have a restriction in their airflow 30+ times per hour! That is to say at least every 2 minutes! Likewise, imagine if your sleep was interrupted every two minutes. Subsequently the effects on your sleep would be devastating. Additionally, it not only makes it harder to breathe, which can be dangerous, but it also means less restful sleep. Moreover, when the airways constrict, the brain “awakens” the person so that they are sleeping more lightly. Finally, spurts of gasping and snorting can repeat hundreds of times throughout the night, disrupting sleep all around.
To sum up, if you are suffering from sleep apnea in Utah, please come see us!
DID YOU KNOW?
25% of men in the U.S. are estimated to suffer from some form of Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is linked to obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart failure.
The Stages of Sleep
Similarly, for those who suffer from Sleep Apnea, it is near impossible to go through the full cycle of a restful sleep. To help us understand, there are four stages of sleep, and each one is necessary to achieve a full night’s rest.
The four stages of the sleep cycle are:
- Transition – about 5% of the total cycle.
- Light – about 45% of the cycle.
- Deep – about 25% of the cycle. This is when the body heals itself and many important reparative functions occur. People who don’t enter the deep cycle will be tired the next day.
- REM – Rapid Eye Movement – about 25% of the cycle. This is when most memorable dreams occur. People who don’t complete a full REM cycle tend to complain that they are tired and find it difficult to concentrate.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Your quality of life can be affected greatly by the quality of the sleep you get. Fortunately, help for those suffering with a lack of sleep is easily accessible from a sleep clinic. You can usually get treatment without the need for medications.
CPAP Machine Therapy
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. A CPAP machine blows a constant stream of air into your mouth, forcing open your airway and allowing your body to get the oxygen it needs. Despite its widespread use, many people are CPAP intolerant and are unable to wear the mask at night due to how invasive and uncomfortable it can be.
A mandibular advancement device is one such oral appliance used in the treatment of sleep apnea. They are worn in the mouth overnight and look like sports mouth guards. Most importantly, their purpose is to ease the lower jaw forwards with the use of metal hinges to make breathing easier.
Another is a tongue retaining device, which acts as a kind of splint to keep the tongue in place and open the airways.
Rarely is surgery used to treat OSA. But if needed, nasal surgery may help a patient’s ability to use a CPAP. There is also the option of having a bimaxillary advancement performed. When all else fails, the last option is having a Tracheostomy performed – when a surgeon makes an opening in the front of the neck and inserts a tube into the windpipe to help patients breathe.