Understanding Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Treatment Options

Sleep apnea is a medical condition where people’s airways become obstructed or partially obstructed during sleep.  This can cause a major disruption in a person’s sleep pattern and contributes to a host of other health issues over time.  Some of these health problems include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and weight gain.  So what exactly are sleep apnea symptoms or signs and what are some treatments?

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The most common sign of obstructive sleep apnea is loud and ongoing snoring.  There may be pauses and choking and/ or gasping may follow.  This snoring is typically loudest when you sleep on your back and it may or may not be less noisy when sleeping on your side.  Over time snoring can increase in volume and occur more frequently.  Because you will be asleep when these episodes occur, it is unlikely that you will be aware of the symptoms and how severe they are if you are aware that you have sleep apnea.  Usually a family member or significant other notices the problem before you do.  It is also important to note that not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.  It all depends on whether or not breathing is interrupted during sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Another common sleep apnea symptom is waking up and chronically feeling tired.  Some people find themselves falling asleep quickly during quiet times in their day.  Even if you do not suffer from sleepiness during the day you should talk to your doctor if you find yourself having breathing issues during sleep.

Some other signs or symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or learning problems
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Irritable, depressed, or having mood or personality swings
  • Waking up frequently to urinate
  • Dry mouth or sore throat when waking up

Sleep apnea also does not just occur in adults, but can also affect children.  Children with sleep apnea tend to be hyperactive, have poor school performance and may present hostile or angry behavior.  They may also breathe through their mouths instead of their noses during the day.

Sleep Apnea Treatments

There are many treatment options available for those suffering from sleep apnea.  You should always consult your doctor to determine if you have sleep apnea or before determining a course of treatment.  The following are some treatment plans available to patients.

  • Positive Airway Pressure Devices provide pressurised air that flows continuously or intermittently into the throat.  This pressure helps keep the airway open.
  • Oral appliances look like mouth guards and positions the lower jaw slightly forward of its usual rest position and can help keep a patient’s airway open during sleep.
  • Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy was introduced in 2014 and works with your natural breathing process to treat moderate to severe sleep apnea.  This works for people who generally suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and cannot use positive airway pressure devices.
  • Positional Therapy works by teaching yourself to sleep less on your back and more on your side, but only works with those that suffer from mild cases of sleep apnea.
  • Surgery can be effective for an adult who suffer from loud snoring, but is less effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea.  It can be difficult for the surgeon to determine what part of the airway is causing the obstruction.
  • Surgery for children occurs when they have snoring or sleep apnea that is caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids or in some cases both.  In nearly 75% of these cases the surgical removal of the tissues cures the sleep apnea.