Do you snore very loudly in your sleep? Or, maybe you’ve felt like you’ve needed to gasp for air in your sleep. These are just two symptoms that are associated with sleep apnea, which is a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly start and stop.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
There are three main types of sleep apnea that a person may have: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax involuntarily and block the airway. This typically causes deep snoring throughout the night.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing while sleeping. As a result, breathing may stop for short periods of time or altogether.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome often presents a mix of symptoms from obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
A person living with sleep apnea may experience a variety of symptoms, including:
• Loud snoring
• Gasping for air during sleep
• Morning headaches
• Awakening with a dry mouth
• Difficulties staying awake in the daytime
• Episodes where you are not breathing in your sleep (reported by someone else)
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
While sleep apnea can be a serious problem, those living with this sleep disorder can improve their symptoms and better manage their disorder through a series of therapies.
For instance, those with moderate to severe sleep apnea may benefit from continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask as you sleep. At the moment, CPAP is the most reliable method of treating sleep apnea. However, some people find the device to be uncomfortable.
Another option is to use oral appliances that are designed to keep your throat open by bringing the jaw forward. This can alleviate snoring and symptoms associated with mild obstructive sleep apnea.
For those with central sleep apnea, supplemental oxygen may be an excellent solution to help improve sleep.
If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to visit your primary care provider or a doctor who can diagnose you and provide you with a personalized treatment plan.