Sleep apnea can be a worrisome disorder for those it affects. It can be a particularly dangerous problem given that the person suffering from the disorder often goes unaware of its existence due to the fact that there is no obvious evidence that there is a problem. Characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, sleep apnea is diagnosed through an overnight test called a polysomnogram. Once the test has confirmed the presence of the apneas, or each individual episode causing at least a 10 second interval between breaths, an individual will be diagnosed with sleep apnea. From there, the next step is to seek out potential sleep apnea treatments to assist those with the sleeping disorder.
The most common form of this sleeping disorder is called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. This disorder is due to the relaxation of the muscles involved in breathing during sleep. As the muscles relax, the airway closes and limits the influx of air, temporarily stopping breathing. Although this can be due to temporary illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections, obstructive sleep apnea that leads to the need for sleep apnea treatments is generally in the chronic form, meaning individuals suffer from it on an on-going basis.
A secondary form is central sleep apnea, caused by the brain's respiratory control centers being imbalanced. The neurological feedback system for controlling breathing can occasionally lapse due to these imbalances and lead to lapses in breathing. Following these situations, hyperpnoea, or periods of increased breathing, can often occur. Another way for the apnea to develop can be due to central respiratory depressant drugs, which can artificially lead to the lapses in breathing simply due to the effects of the drugs.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
The most consistently effective sleep apnea treatment is the use of a PAP (CPAP or BiPAP) device, or a positive airway pressure device. Given that most obstructive sleep apnea occurs because the upper airway becomes narrow due to relaxing muscles during sleep, a positive airway pressure device is the most direct method for helping this problem. The device works by injecting pressurized air at regular intervals through a nose or face mask. The pressured air essentially works as a splint, forcing the airway to stay open during sleep and therefore leading to reduced, or sometimes eliminated, episodes of apnea. As a positive side effect, the device is also known for helping to reduce or prevent snoring as well
A secondary form of treatment can be from OAT, or oral appliance therapy. Prescribed by a dentist, this form of sleep apnea treatment can be successful for some individuals. It involves using a mouthpiece to align the jaw so as to keep the airway open during sleep. It is mostly successful for patients suffering from mild to moderate levels of sleep apnea and is a relatively new treatment with growing popularity.
In any case, as with most sleep disorders, sleep apnea is nothing to mess around with. If you have been told you suffer from lapses during your sleep, it would be wise to seek out your doctor to see if you suffer from sleep apnea. From there, you and your doctor can decide which sleep apnea treatments are best suited for you