With sleep apnea, your breathing gets very shallow or even stops while you are sleeping. Your breathing might pause for 10 to 20 seconds or even up to a minute or more. This can happen 20, 30 or more times in an hour. Every time this happens, it disrupts your sleep. You might not wake up completely, but sleep apnea keeps you from getting the deep sleep you need.
Usually sleep apnea is caused by something blocking your airway. Relaxed throat muscles, large amounts of fatty tissue, your tongue, tonsils or uvula can block your airway. This blockage keeps you from getting enough air into your lungs. As a result, the amount of oxygen in your blood drops.
You might have sleep apnea if:
- You snore loudly
- You are very sleepy during the day
- You are irritable, moody or very tired
- You have headaches in the morning
- You are forgetful or have trouble concentrating
- You lose interest in sex
- Your loved ones notice long pauses in your breathing when you are asleep
See your doctor if you think you might have sleep apnea. It can be treated with:
- Lifestyle changes
- Dental devices that keep your jaw in a better position
- A mask that adds pressure to the air you breathe
Lifestyle changes that help most people with sleep apnea include:
- Stop using alcohol
- Do not use medicines to help you sleep
- Quit smoking
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Sleep on your side instead of on your back
Rex ENT Specialists can help you with sleep apnea. Dr. John A. Garside, M.D., can diagnose and treat your sleep apnea so you can improve the quality of your sleep. He specializes in treating ear, nose and throat disorders in adults and children.
To learn more about sleep apnea, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.