Don’t Ignore the Snore: The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

If your spouse has informed you that your snoring is driving them to the couch, it’s likely that the quality of your own rest may be compromised. Heavy snoring can be more than a nuisance, though. It can be a symptom of a condition that can have serious health consequences: sleep apnea.

Dr. Wade Han and the team at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center can assess and treat you for sleep apnea with a variety of advanced tools. Dr. Han’s years of experience make him a practitioner you can depend on for a nuanced clinical perspective and a communication style that’s easy to understand. 

Does your snoring mean you have sleep apnea?

There are two types of sleep apnea we see the most: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea. 

When you have OSA, you experience an oxygen shortage because the muscles at the back of your throat relax, causing your soft tissues to obstruct your breathing. Since your brain is responsive to such irregularities, it reacts by making you cough or choke and awaken, even if for just a few seconds, to get you back into a normal breathing pattern. 

Unfortunately, with obstructive sleep apnea, the pattern repeats itself many times per night — sometimes every few minutes — and you wake up exhausted, remain groggy throughout the day, and may even have lapses in memory due to this low-quality rest. Headache can also be a problem. 

With central sleep apnea, your brain simply fails to communicate with the muscles that regulate breathing. Unlike OSA, your airway remains open, but your breathing is still interrupted. This type of sleep apnea is particularly common in people who have heart issues. Symptoms include nighttime chest pain and shortness of breath at certain times (that improves when you sit up).

Sometimes sleep apnea can be tricky because not everyone who snores has sleep apnea and some who don’t snore actually do have it. That’s why it’s best to get evaluated by your physician. 

Sleep apnea poses serious risks

Although focus problems and feeling tired throughout the day once in a while won’t do you in, it’s important to know that sleep apnea is also linked to serious health problems:

Sleep apnea has been shown to worsen high blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack, both conditions that are affected by your oxygen levels and how efficiently your blood flows. The relationship between sleep apnea and weight is interesting because excess weight increases your risk for the condition and sleep apnea often leads to additional weight gain. 

What can I do to lower my risk of sleep apnea?

In addition to being treated by Dr. Wan for sleep apnea, there are preventive steps you can take to head the condition off, or at least lessen its severity:

There are some factors you can’t control, however. You’re more at risk for sleep apnea if you’re male and older, for example. 

Effective sleep apnea treatments

Dr. Han treats patients with both types of sleep apnea, but before creating any type of treatment plan for you, he works to find the root of your problem. Knowing the cause of your sleep apnea and its type are factors critical to how he treats it.

If you have moderate to severe central sleep apnea, he may prescribe that you use either a bilevel airway pressure (BPAP) or auto servo-ventilation device, both of which help you breathe in a healthy, regular pattern during the night.

If you suffer from the more common OSA, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine may be in order to help stabilize your breathing while you sleep. If your case is not too serious, Dr. Han might prescribe an oral device like a mouthguard and counsel you about lifestyle shifts you can enact.

If your sleep apnea symptoms don’t abate even after trying these devices and practices, Dr. Han may discuss surgical options with you that involve tissue removal with the goal of further opening up your airway. 

He performs a maxillomandibular advancement procedure, which expands your airway by moving your jaw forward, as well as a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty procedure that tightens your throat tissues.

It’s time to solve your snoring problem (and find out if you have sleep apnea)

Call either one of our offices or use our online booking tool to schedule a consultation so you can speak with Dr. Han about your symptoms, get a diagnosis, find the right treatment, and lower your risk for a serious future condition.

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