Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

A man rubs his eyesSleep apnea is commonly caused by obesity, old age, and enlarged tongues, and can lead to symptoms such as loud snoring, night sweats, and extreme fatigue. Dr. James Slaman in Albuquerque, NM, can discuss all possible causes and symptoms of sleep apnea during your initial consultation. This chronic problem not only affects your quality of sleep, but it can also have a damaging impact on your overall health. Because many people with sleep apnea snore or gasp for air during the night, their partners can also suffer the negative effects.

Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes cessation of breathing during sleep. Episodes can last between a few seconds and several minutes, sometimes occurring over 30 times in one hour. This frequent fluctuation in airflow can prevent you from entering states of deep and restful sleep.

If left untreated, disorders like sleep apnea can lead to severe health-related issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Over 18 million American adults are affected by this sleep disorder, and many do not even realize they have it. The American Association for Respiratory Care suggests that approximately 10 million people in the United States have undiagnosed sleep apnea. Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Severe snoring
  • Forgetfulness
  • Night sweats
  • Restlessness
  • Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
  • Irritability
  • Depression

If left untreated, disorders like sleep apnea can lead to severe health-related issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If you think you may have developed sleep apnea, it is important to seek medical care as soon as possible for proper diagnosis.

Common Causes of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is triggered when the airway becomes blocked, severely limiting oxygen flow to the lungs and the rest of the body. This decrease of airflow can be caused by several different factors, including:

  • Over-Relaxation of Muscles: If your tongue and throat muscles relax more than normal, the tissues can obstruct the opening of the airway.
  • Enlarged Tissues: Patients who have enlarged tissues, such as oversized tonsils or a large tongue, can suffer the effects of sleep apnea.
  • Obesity: People who are overweight can develop fatty tissue on the wall of the windpipe, making it more difficult for the airway to stay open.
  • Genetics: Some people may be genetically predisposed to sleep disorders due to the size and shape of their head, neck, and surrounding structures.
  • Age: Patients over 40 are at a higher risk for developing sleep apnea.

Ways to Minimize Sleep Apnea

There are several methods used in the treatment of sleep apnea. Because the disorder ranges in severity, successful techniques can vary for each patient. Mild cases of sleep apnea can sometimes be addressed with simple lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising, or reducing alcohol intake. You may also find that sleeping on your side, rather than your back, can help keep the airway open.

Many people have experienced significant success with the use of an oral appliance. Dr. Slaman can fabricate a custom mouth guard for you to wear while you sleep. This appliance can gently move the lower jaw and tongue forward, keeping the airway open.

More severe cases of sleep apnea can be treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or through surgical intervention. Dr. Slaman can help you decide which treatment option will be most effective for you.

Schedule a Consultation with Us

If you are experiencing signs of sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with Dr. Slaman. Improve your quality of sleep so you can go back to enjoying life again. Contact us online or call our office at (505) 881-7586.