Fade in to the following scene: Julie is staring at the clock for the third night in a row at 2 a.m. Why? She doesn’t have any issues sleeping. However, the same cannot be said for Bob, her husband. Julie has repeatedly elbowed her loving spouse in the middle of the night and not because he has stolen all of the covers. Instead, she has been woken up from deep sleep because of the sound that has been emanating from Bob…loud and obnoxious snoring much like a freight train powering into their bedroom station.
Can you relate to this anecdotal story? You might expect that snoring is due to nasal congestion, but often times, it is a sign of a disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is characterized by an obstruction of the airway, which impacts breathing during sleep wherein pauses occur a number of times in any given hour throughout the night. Most people are under the false impression that the louder the snoring the deeper the sleep but they are wrong. It can actually be more indicative of the severity of his or her sleep apnea. Besides snoring, some of the other symptoms that can be attributed to sleep apnea are the following: excessive sleepiness and non-refreshing sleep, mood and behavior changes, morning headaches and sore/dry throat, lack of concentration and memory issues, insomnia and night sweats.
Much More Than Snoring
It is estimated that close to 100 million people across the world suffer from sleep apnea. Unfortunately, lack of awareness of this disease contributes to the high percentage of individuals walking around and not knowing that sleep apnea can be so much more than just snoring. In fact, it is estimated that close to 80% of all sleep apnea patients remain undiagnosed, and suffer without full knowledge or understanding of their disease.
According to Dr. Scott Anderson, a board-certified otolaryngologist at Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America (SATCOA), “There are two reasons for this statistic. One: People simply are not aware of the disease. If they snore, it is viewed as a comical occurrence. They may not realize the serious health risks associated with sleep apnea. And the other reason is that a small subset realize they have sleep apnea but do not want to hear the diagnosis, much like someone thinking they might have cancer and not wanting to actually know the truth. It is vitally important for people to understand the risks associated with not seeking treatment.”
If left untreated, sleep apnea can adversely affect the sufferer’s health with an increased risk for high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, obesity, diabetes and stroke. Understandably, it is important for anyone to seek an accurate sleep apnea diagnosis from an expert in the field. The next step in the journey would be getting a sleep study in order for your physician to fully understand the extent and severity of your disease. This diagnostic tool will determine the number of respiratory episodes occurring during the course of an hour. Also known as an apnea–hypopnea index (AHI), this information along with other factors determines the best course of treatment to resolve sleep apnea for each patient on an individualized basis.
Today, sleep apnea treatments run the gamut from the most conservative to the most invasive. For most people diagnosed with sleep apnea, traditional treatment has been prescribed in the form of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask with accompanying machine. CPAP does work; however, it only alleviates the symptoms and does not provide a sleep apnea cure. The same end-result is true for sleep apnea mouthpieces or oral appliances.
There is the additional option of surgery, which is invasive and needs to occur in a hospital setting. The risks associated with sleep apnea surgery (tissue removal, jaw repositioning, and tracheostomy) include infection, bleeding, blood clots, nerve or tissue damage or allergic reaction. Lastly, new on the horizon for individuals who have received a sleep apnea diagnosis is the innovative option of radiofrequency ablation (RFA). It is a safe, effective alternative to traditional sleep apnea treatment offered as a minimally invasive procedure occurring in a physician’s office versus surgery in a hospital setting.
Whatever the treatment, the decibel level of snoring can be decreased in those individuals with sleep apnea. It is fairly simple. All you need to do is take the first step and see a physician to get properly diagnosed.
If you believe that you might have sleep apnea and would like to discover your best treatment option, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation.