Causes and Treatments of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects millions of people. Sleep apnea is a condition in which an individual stops breathing during regular sleep. It is characterized by short stops in breathing during a normal period of sleep, often occurring numerous times throughout the night. While the brain triggers the body to breath, and the body returns to a normal breathing pattern, these interruptions, happening throughout the night, can lead to a disruptive and restless sleep. This can be dangerous during the day when a person with sleep apnea drives a car or operates other machinery on little or no rest. It can also cause an overall tired sensation and lead to irritability in the individual thanks to ongoing lack of adequate and restful sleep. The good news is, there is treatment for the disorder.

Doctors identify two types of sleep apnea, although certain treatments apply to all. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something obstructs or blocks the air passage. The tongue, for instance, might block the windpipe limiting air passage. Central sleep apnea is more rare and occurs when the central nervous system fails to deliver the signal for the body to breathe. Either the signal is not sent or it is interrupted along the way. This type of sleep apnea is more rare.

Sleep apnea is very common, affecting millions of Americans, but mostly afflicts individuals who meet certain criteria. Men over forty who tend to be overweight or obese more often suffer from sleep apnea than those outside of the category. Other triggers include smoking, drinking alcohol and sleeping on the back. Children with large tonsils can also suffer from sleep apnea. In such a case, surgery can correct this problem. Other treatments are required for adult sleep apnea.

Treatment for sleep apnea includes eliminating the causes. Doctors suggest maintaining an ideal body weight for those who are overweight or obese. It is also suggested that smokers with sleep apnea quit smoking to alleviate symptoms. Similarly, those who drink alcohol should limit or eliminate consumption.

Other treatments can be considered for sleep apnea. Before treatment for the disorder can begin, a doctor must diagnose sleep apnea. He may ask questions about sleep patterns, daytime drowsiness or tiredness, or habits and sleep routines. Often a sleep test must be performed before doctors can diagnose the disorder and assign treatment. Sleep tests can be performed at a sleep center and with equipment in the home. Once sleep apnea is determined, doctors may begin treatment. Treatment can include a dental apparatus that repositions the jaw during sleep. Treatment may also include a special breathing mask that helps keep the air passage open. In some cases, treatment may include surgery to help clear the air passage.

Recognizing a problem is the first step in diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. Recognizing patterns in daytime drowsiness or lack of focus, interrupted sleep, being irritable or generally tired can help. Individuals with such symptoms should consult a doctor for possible diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. Successful treatment could mean a restful night of sleep.

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