Sleep apnea refers to a condition of repetitive episodes of breathing cessation or slowing during sleep. Apneas are often classified as one of three types. Obstructive, Central and Mixed Apneas. Obstructive Apnea is characterized by the closure of airway, preventing airflow while an individual is still making efforts to breathe. When an individual is making no effort to breathe this is called Central Apnea, that is, there is a brief time period where no signal is coming from the brain to initiate breathing. Mixed Apnea is a combination of the two, starting with a Central Apnea and progressing into an Obstructive Apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea include loud snoring and /or pauses in breathing during sleep with loud snorts /gasps as breathing resumes. Daytime sleepiness, irritability & difficulty concentrating are noticed during the waking hours. Diagnosis is made by a sleep study conducted overnight in a sleep center and for some people the diagnosis can be made at home. During testing in the sleep center, brain activity, breathing patterns, oxygen level, and heart rate are some of the parameters recorded. The technician conducting the study may ask the patient to turn during sleep to see whether position affects the frequency of snoring and apneic episodes. Despite all the recording equipment, most individuals manage to sleep during the study.
There are several options for the treatment of sleep apnea. Weight loss, avoidance of alcohol and sleeping pills, use of nasal decongestants, and not sleeping on the back may be recommended for these who stop breathing infrequently during sleep. A 10% reduction in body weight is a reasonable initial weight loss goal and can improve breathing while asleep.
For many patients, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is prescribed. This system consists of a mask or interface for the nose connected to a bedside airflow generator (CPAP machine) via a flexible hose. Air from the CPAP machine travels under pressure through the hose and mask and into the throat, splinting the airway open. The appropriate level of CPAP pressure for each patient is discovered during the overnight CPAP titration. This overnight study is a follow-up to the baseline or diagnostic sleep study which reveals if the patient has sleep apnea and how severe it is. The CPAP pressure is adjusted by the technician during the overnight titration to find the optimal level for each individual patient. CPAP is very effective when used on a nightly basis and is the most widely prescribed form of therapy. If a patient requires high levels of CPAP or has a more complicated sleep problem, alternative modes such as BIPAP or Auto-SV may be prescribed.
Often it is the significant other who notices the symptoms of sleep apnea. The loud snoring and sudden gasps for air can be disturbing to their sleep while the person suffering from it does not realize it is happening. Detecting and treating sleep apnea may improve overall health. Untreated sleep apnea may increase the risk for high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Our sleep lab is located in Largo and only minutes away from Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Seminole. Call our office today to make an appointment for a sleep evaluation with one of hour hightly trained, Board-Certified physicians.