Correctly identifying and treating sleep apnea can also play a crucial role in public safety, says?Ronald?Chervin, MD, immediate past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a professor of sleep medicine, professor of neurology, and the director of the Sleep Disorders Centers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
"Sleep apnea is a public health problem," he says.
Common Questions & Answers
The Three Different Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea?This is the most common form of sleep apnea and it occurs when there is a partial or complete obstruction of the airway, says?Neeraj Kaplish, MD, director of sleep laboratories at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Central Sleep Apnea?This type of apnea occurs when something goes awry with the brain's normal signaling to muscles that control breathing in the body, causing breathing to repeatedly stop or become very shallow.
Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a physical blockage, central sleep apnea is a neurological problem, says?Robson Capasso, MD, chief of sleep surgery and associate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome?Complex sleep apnea happens when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea at the same time.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Feeling exhausted and sleepy during the day despite getting seven or more hours of sleep at night
- Waking up with dry mouth
- Experiencing morning headaches
- Having trouble with attention, concentration, and memory
- Having decreased?sex drive?or sexual dysfunction
In addition, your partner or family members may tell you that they witnessed one or more of the following:
- Chronic snoring that may be extremely loud
- Repeated pauses in breathing followed by snorting and gasping for air
Causes and Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
- Having large adenoids or tonsils
- Having a lower jaw that's misaligned or smaller than the upper jaw
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Age (sleep apnea can affect people of any age but is more common in older adults)
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Use of alcohol and certain medications
- Neuromuscular conditions that interfere with brain signals to airway and chest muscles
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
Prognosis of Sleep Apnea
Duration of Sleep Apnea
Treatment and Medication Options for Sleep Apnea
- Eat right, exercise, and lose weight.?Fill your plate with heart-healthy options like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and get plenty of?exercise. Adopting these healthy habits can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is important because obesity can increase your risk for sleep apnea.
- Stop smoking.?Smoking may increase upper airway inflammation and reduce function.
- Avoid alcohol and certain medications.?Don't take sedatives, opioids, or benzodiazepines,and try not to drink, especially close to bedtime, as these substances can relax the muscles in the back of your throat and potentially further interfere with breathing, according to Sleep Foundation.
- Do not sleep on your back.?Sleeping on your back can increase the likelihood that your tongue and soft palate will fall back into your airway, causing airway obstruction, snoring, and sleep apnea.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)?The most common treatment is?a CPAP?machine, which is a device you can use at home that gently forces pressurized air through a mask you wear over your nose and mouth (or just your nose) into your airway to keep it open while you sleep at night. CPAP?has been shown to be effective in treating sleep apnea.
Prevention of Sleep Apnea
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Losing weight if you are overweight
- Not smoking (or quitting if you do smoke)
- Sleeping on your side
- Getting adequate, good-quality sleep
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and avoiding sedatives
Complications of Sleep Apnea
When you're unable to have normal sleep cycles that give you a restful, restorative sleep, it can have profound physical, mental, and even emotional consequences.
RELATED:?What Happens When You Don't Sleep
- Metabolic syndrome
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Glaucoma, per the American Academy of Ophthalmology
- Pregnancy complications (including gestational diabetes and hypertension), according to a November 2018 review in Anesthesia and Analgesia
- Cancers (such as pancreatic, renal, or skin cancer)
Research and Statistics: Who Has Sleep Apnea?
They measured sleep apnea severity based on the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) — which is the number of pauses in breathing per hour of sleep — during both REM and non-REM sleep and found that twice as many men as women had a top AHI score of 15 during non-REM sleep. But during the REM phase of sleep, the same number of men and women had a high AHI score. This was important, according to the researchers, because this is the number that doctors believe is the best predictor of a person's risk for developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Conditions Related to Sleep Apnea
Resources We Love
Favorite Orgs for Essential Sleep Apnea Info
ASAA promotes awareness of sleep apnea through advocacy and education. Learn how to get involved on their website. ASAA?runs its Alert, Well, and Keeping Energetic (A.W.A.K.E.) support groups for people with sleep apnea across the country. And the organization has a CPAP?assistance program that helps provide CPAP equipment to patients who cannot otherwise afford it.
FMCSA is the federal government agency in the United States responsible for safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles. The agency has sponsored research documenting incidence of sleep apnea in commercial truck drivers, and has led efforts to increase sleep apnea screening and education for them.
NHLBI is one of the institutes that makes up the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health. Check out the NHLBI's sleep apnea page for information on the condition and how to manage it. You'll also find information about new and ongoing research, and how to participate in clinical trials.
The AASM defines itself as the "only professional society dedicated exclusively to the medical subspecialty of sleep medicine" and is comprised of physicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals who work to advance sleep medicine and promote sleep health to improve people's lives.
Favorite Sleep Apnea Podcast
Episodes of this podcast cover topics ranging from why sleep apnea treatments don't work for some people, to sleep apnea myths, to how our diets affect sleep disorders. The podcast's producer and creator is?Steven Y. Park, MD, an assistant professor in the department of otorhinolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. Dr. Park has written books on sleep and sleep disorders, and his podcast and work focuses on helping people sleep better and address potential sleep disorders.
Favorite Online Support Networks
This online forum is a place for people with sleep apnea and the medical providers who treat them to ask questions and get answers. The forum includes a section devoted to user-generated product reviews. There's also a directory of providers, sleep labs, product providers, and support groups you can search by geographical area.
This online community of individuals who have sleep apnea and the doctors who treat them offers an online forum to share advice about managing sleep apnea. The website also features a blog with posts about patient stories and new research.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Sleep Apnea. Medline Plus. July 7, 2020.
- Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Risk Factors. SleepEducation.org. June 22, 2016.
- Sleep Apnea. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- Sleep Apnea: Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. July 28, 2020.
- Sleep Apnea Overview and Facts. Sleep Education.org.
- Central Sleep Apnea. Mayo Clinic. June 25, 2019.
- Wang J, Wang Y, Feng J, et al. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome. Patient Preference and Adherence. July 3, 2013.
- Khan, MT and Franco, RA. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome.?Sleep Disorders. February 16, 2014.
- Polysomnography (Sleep Study). Mayo Clinic. November 17, 2018.
- When Is a Home Sleep Apnea Test Appropriate? Michigan Health Lab. March 18, 2016.
- What to Know About an At-Home Sleep Test. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- Slowik J, Collen J. Obstructive Sleep Apnea. StatPearls. June 7, 2020.
- Sleep Apnea Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. March 27, 2019.
- Weight Loss, Breathing Devices Still Best for Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Harvard Health Publishing. March 18, 2019.
- Alcohol and Sleep. Sleep Foundation. September 4, 2020.
- Sleep Apnea. Sleep Foundation. August 21, 2020.
- Sleep Apnea: Diagnosis and Treatment. Mayo Clinic. July 28, 2020.
- Sleep Apnea. FamilyDoctor.org. July 25, 2019.
- The Emerging Option of Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy. Mayo Clinic. February 10, 2018.
- Sleep Apnea and Glaucoma. American Academy of Ophthalmology. January 19, 2019.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Pregnant Women: A Review of Pregnancy Outcomes.?Anesthesia and Analgesia. November 2018.
- AASM Urges FMCSA and FRA to Address Sleep Apnea Screening. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. August 24, 2017.
- Six Facts About Sleep Apnea. SleepEducation.org. August 6, 2019.
- Gottlieb D, Punjabi N. Diagnosis and Management of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Journal of the American Medical Association. April 14, 2020.
- Sleep Apnea in Women: New Research Could Lead to Better Diagnosis and Treatment. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. January 13, 2020.
- Won C, Reid M, Sofer T, et al. Sex Differences in Obstructive Sleep Apnea Phenotypes, The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Sleep. November 5, 2019.
- How Weight Affects Sleep Apnea. Sleep Foundation. August 28, 2020.
- Fu Y, Xia Y, Yi H, et al. Meta-Analysis of All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality in Obstructive Sleep Apnea with or without Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Treatment. Sleep and Breathing. March, 2017.