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Sleep Apnea

If the structures completely block the throat, air can’t flow to the lungs at all. This is called apnea (meaning “no breathing”). Since the lungs aren’t getting fresh air, the brain tells the body to wake up just enough to tighten the muscles and unblock the air passage. With a loud gasp, breathing begins again. This process may be repeated over and over again throughout the night, making your sleep fragmented with a lighter stage of sleep. Even though you do not remember waking up many times during the night to a lighter sleep, you feel tired the next day. The lack of sleep and fresh air can also strain your lungs, heart, and other organs, leading to problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke.


Common Symptoms:
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.

  • Waking with an unrefreshed feeling after sleep, having problems with memory and concentration, feeling tired, and experiencing personality changes.

  • Morning or night headaches. About half of all people with sleep apnea report headaches.

  • Heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth at night.

  • Swelling of the legs.

  • Getting up often during the night to urinate.

  • Sweating and chest pain while you are sleeping.

 


Caused by:

While you sleep, structures in your throat partially block your air passage, making the passage narrow and hard to breathe through. If the entire passage becomes blocked and you can’t breathe at all, you have sleep apnea.

 


Treatment:
Mouthpieces:

For simple snoring or mild to moderate apnea, a special mouthpiece may help. A dental specialist works with your health care provider to build and fit a mouthpiece just for you. A follow-up sleep study checks how well the device is working for you. Mouthpieces are also called oral appliances.
 
Most mouthpieces move the jaw and tongue forward. That keeps the tongue from blocking the airway. Mouthpieces can work well, but they are not for everyone. Work with your health care provider to get a mouthpiece that fits just right for you. And avoid over-the-counter mouthpieces — they often do not work.
 
To have the most success with your mouthpiece, keep these tips in mind:

  • It will take some time to get used to wearing a mouthpiece. At first it may feel uncomfortable or make your mouth water. If these problems last, tell your health care provider.

  • Expect several rounds of adjustments to get the mouthpiece to fit and work just right for you.

  • Mouthpieces don’t cure the problems that cause snoring or sleep apnea. So you need to use your mouthpiece all night, every night.

  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions for keeping the mouthpiece clean.

  • When you’re not wearing your mouthpiece, store it in its case.

 

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP):

CPAP uses gentle air pressure to hold the airway open. CPAP is often the most effective treatment for sleep apnea and severe snoring. It works very well for many people. But keep in mind that it can take several adjustments before the setup is right for you.
 
CPAP is a small portable pump beside the bed. The pump sends air through a hose, which is held over your nose and/or mouth by a mask. Mild air pressure is gently pushed through your airway. The air pressure nudges sagging tissues aside. This widens the airway so you can breathe better. CPAP may be combined with other kinds of therapy for sleep apnea.
 
There are different types of CPAP. Your doctor or CPAP technician will help you decide which type is best for you:

  • Basic CPAP keeps the pressure constant all night long.

  • A bilevel device (BiPAP) provides more pressure when you breathe in and less when you breathe out. A BiPAP machine also may be set to provide automatic breaths to maintain breathing if you stop breathing while sleeping.

  • An autoCPAP device automatically adjusts pressure throughout the night and in response to changes such as body position, sleep stage, and snoring.

 

Surgery:

UPPP (Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty) - This is the most common surgical procedure for sleep apnea. It trims the soft palate and uvula, and removes the tonsils and other tissue. It is major surgery performed in a hospital. Most patients go home within 24 hours.

LAUP (Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty) - This procedure helps relieve snoring. It may also be used in some cases of mild apnea. The doctor uses a laser or electric current to remove some of the soft palate and part or all of the uvula. This treatment may be done over several sessions in the doctor’s office.

Nasal Surgery - Problems in the nose can make snoring or sleep apnea worse. They can also make CPAP (a common treatment for snoring and sleep apnea) harder to use. If blockages in your nose are severe, surgery can improve the airflow. It can reduce the size of the turbinates, straighten a deviated septum, and remove any polyps (overgrowths of sinus lining).

Jaw Surgery - If your jaw sits too far back, your tongue may also be too far back. That makes the tongue more likely to block the airway when you sleep. Moving the jaw forward moves the tongue forward and widens the airway overall.


Providers who treat this condition: