Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues at the back of your throat collapse while you are sleeping and cover up the airway opening. As you inhale and exhale, the air vibrates through those tissues and creates a sound that is sometimes loud enough to wake a sleeping partner. When those tissues completely obstruct the airway opening, the person stops breathing for a brief period of time. The brain recognizes that the person has stopped breathing and briefly rouses the person to re-establish a normal breathing pattern. This cycle can happen repeatedly throughout the duration of sleep.
The apneic episodes, which deprive the body of an adequate oxygen supply, cause other symptoms in addition to snoring. Patients with sleep apnea often complain of headaches or sore throats in the morning. They still feel fatigued even thought they’ve slept for eight hours. They may also notice mood changes, irritability and difficulty paying attention.
The symptoms described above may sound like they primarily affect your quality of life, but your health suffers when you have sleep apnea, too. The condition has been linked with various health issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and obesity, among others. People with sleep apnea may even have an increased risk of sudden death. Therefore, getting effective sleep apnea treatment is essential to your well-being.
Fortunately, obstructive sleep apnea can be treated and the symptoms and effects eliminated. Patients often get relief from wearing a simple oral appliance that repositions their jaw or tongue to keep the soft tissues away from the airway opening. Such appliances are comfortable and convenient, meaning that patients are more likely to use them properly and consistently than a burdensome continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask.
Patients who show signs of sleep apnea, like loud snoring, should consult with a sleep apnea specialist for an evaluation to explore their treatment options. Don’t let snoring interfere with your relationship anymore!