If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, chronic snoring or any of the other telltale symptoms of sleep apnea, you will benefit from an evaluation with a Houston sleep apnea specialist. Dr. Cecil Yeung is dedicated to sleep apnea and snoring treatments, starting with identifying the root cause of the problem in order to deliver long-term relief. Get started on the path to a life free from chronic snoring and poor sleep by scheduling an appointment for sleep apnea treatments at the Yeung Institute in Houston today.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing while you sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 times or more each hour, significantly disrupting your natural sleep rhythm. Due to the constant interruption in breathing, sleep apnics spend more time in light sleep and less time in the deep, restorative sleep that’s needed in order to feel well-rested. As a result, it may come as no surprise that sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a number of troubling health problems and other risks, including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, weight gain, depression and a higher incidence of automobile and workplace accidents.
What causes sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea can be caused by a number of different factors, depending on the type of sleep apnea you have. There are three types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
- More common in people who are overweight, but anyone can develop OSA
- Airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep
- Causes shallow breathing and breathing pauses
- Can cause loud snoring
- Obstruction may be caused by nasal problems, such as deviated septum or nasal polyps
Central Sleep Apnea
- Brain doesn’t send correct signals to breathing muscles
- Less common than obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- More common with certain medical conditions or medications
- Seldom causes snoring
Complex Sleep Apnea
- Combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Symptoms of sleep apnea may be present for years or even decades without being diagnosed. Sleep apnea symptoms may include:
- Excessive sleepiness or lack of energy throughout the day
- Loud snoring
- Morning headaches
- Waking up to the sensation of choking or gasping
- Restless sleep
- Recurrent waking or insomnia
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Memory loss
- Trouble concentrating
- Irritability, depression and mood swings
Often times, a sleeping partner or roommate may be the first to notice your symptoms. Aside from loud snoring, pauses in breathing and choking/gasping during sleep are common. A person with sleep apnea will usually not be aware that these symptoms are occurring.
How is sleep apnea treated?
To evaluate a patient for sleep apnea, Dr. Yeung will recommend a test called a polysomnogram, also known as a sleep study. This is a multiple component sleep apnea test that electronically transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. There is a similar test you can perform at home, called the reduced channels home-based test. The diagnosis of sleep apnea is based on a sleep apnea doctor’s evaluation of your symptoms and of the results of your sleep study.
In some cases, sleep apnea symptoms can be improved with simple lifestyle changes, which might include:
- Sleeping on your side to prevent blocking the airway
- Losing weight, which can open up the throat and improve sleep apnea symptoms
- Stopping smoking, as it can contribute to increasing inflammation and fluid retention
- Avoiding alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping pills because they relax the throat and make airway obstruction worse
Since sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can have grave health consequences if left untreated, your Houston sleep apnea specialist will likely recommend a sleep apnea treatment that works in conjunction with lifestyle changes to improve your symptoms. Dr. Yeung will tailor an appropriate treatment for each patient depending on his or her unique needs.
Non-invasive sleep apnea treatments that may be prescribed include:
- CPAP (CPAP) and APAP (APAP): For moderate to severe sleep apnea, the most common treatment is the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine or an Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) device, both of which help keep your airway open during sleep by pressurized air that goes into your throat.
- Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT): Oral appliance therapy (OAT) involves using a custom-made mouthpiece that shifts the lower jaw forward and stabilizes the tongue, effectively opening up the airway and reducing the chance of tongue obstruction.
In more severe cases of sleep apnea, surgery may be the best treatment option for providing long-term symptom relief. If you have exhausted other sleep apnea treatment options, you may want to discuss surgical options with Dr. Yeung. There are various types of surgery available, which may involve removing the tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose. Many of these procedures can be performed using new technology and surgical techniques, such as functional endoscopic sinus surgery, which reduce downtime and start providing relief much faster.