Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition where a person’s breathing stops and starts multiple times throughout the night. This disorder can cause health conditions such as high blood pressure or other heart issues if left untreated.
There are three main types of sleep apnea, each caused by different factors:
Regular nighttime snoring is commonly misdiagnosed as sleep apnea and vice versa, but they are distinct from each other. Regular snoring is caused by a nose or throat condition and can be triggered by back sleeping, older age or obesity. On the other hand, those suffering from sleep apnea will have the following symptoms:
There are two main tests that sleep specialists use to formally diagnose sleep apnea. A nocturnal polysomnography is usually done in a sleep disorder center. For this test, you are hooked up to a machine that monitors several elements, such as your heart, lungs, breathing patterns, brain activity, body movement and blood oxygen levels.
Your doctor may also conduct a home sleep test. These are simplified and can monitor blood oxygen, heart rate, breathing patterns and airflow while you sleep. If the results are abnormal, the sleep specialist may prescribe sleep apnea treatment.
There are several options for treatment, but the most common is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This machine is used at night and opens the airways to allow for restful sleep. If the CPAP mask is too cumbersome and uncomfortable, there are also other therapies available, such as using a bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) device and auto-CPAP. Both adjust the pressure level automatically throughout the night when you inhale and exhale.