You Could Have Sleep Apnea and Not Know It

Many people snore now and then, especially in a deep sleep or if lying on their back. An occasional snore is nothing to be concerned about. Even a regular pattern of snoring isn’t dangerous — unless your sleep partner is ready to take action! But sometimes, regular snoring can be a sign that you have sleep apnea. 

Roughly half of all people who snore suffer from sleep apnea, and some may not know it. Since sleep apnea symptoms happen while you’re sleeping, they are impossible to catch. But your sleep partner may notice that you snore loudly, or even stop breathing at times. Sleep apnea can be dangerous, and any suspicions should be shared with your doctor. 

Dr. Benjamin Laracuente at Tristate Pulmonary Medical Practice is a sleep apnea expert who serves the people of Monaca, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas. He can listen to your concerns during a confidential consultation, perform an examination, or even order an on-site sleep study to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea. 

What are the basics of sleep apnea?

When your breathing is obstructed during sleep, the sound of air struggling through your nose and throat is called snoring. Nasal and other tissues vibrate and create a variety of unique snoring sounds. 

When your airflow is completely blocked during sleep, this is called obstructive sleep apnea. As you relax in sleep, the neck and throat relax, and the tongue relaxes and falls backward. This combines to block your airway, and if air cannot force its way through, you may stop breathing. 

When breathing becomes obstructed, your brain’s survival mechanism kicks in and wakes you just enough to prompt some manual breathing activity. You wake up suddenly, gasping for air. But this only takes a moment, then you fall back to sleep, not even realizing that you have stirred. This can actually happen hundreds of times in a single night. 

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea? 

This constant waking and struggling to breathe completely destroys any semblance of restful sleep. You wake in the morning feeling as if you had fought a battle — because you have, and you lost. Now you are plagued with drowsiness and fatigue throughout the day. These are the most obvious signs of sleep apnea. 

And, this constant fatigue affects every other area of your life. You are more prone to have accidents. You may tend to be more irritable, short-tempered, depressed, and easily discouraged. All from a lack of sleep because of sleep apnea. 

In addition, sleep apnea can do serious damage to your heart. When you can’t breathe properly, the oxygen level in your blood drops, and this prompts your heart to raise your blood pressure to better oxygenate your body. As this happens all night long, your heart is under serious strain, raising your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other medical emergencies. 

How is sleep apnea diagnosed? 

If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, or your sleep partner persuades you that something is amiss, you should schedule a consultation with Dr. Laracuente as soon as possible. He can set up a sleep study, which is the only way to obtain concrete data on which to base a diagnosis of sleep apnea. During a sleep study, sensors on your body measure your breathing, oxygen levels, and airflow while you sleep. 

You may be astounded at how often you wake, jumpstart your breathing, and fall back to sleep, only to repeat the process again and again. With this diagnostic information, Dr. Laracuente can formulate a specific treatment plan for your level of sleep apnea. 

How is sleep apnea treated? 

Dr. Laracuente tailors your sleep apnea treatment on an individual basis, according to the intensity of your disorder. For those with mild sleep apnea, he may recommend a weight loss program to reduce the amount of excess tissue around your neck and soft palate.  

For more severe levels of sleep apnea, he may prescribe an oral appliance, sometimes called a nightguard, to wear while you sleep. This device holds your jaw in a position that prevents your tongue and soft tissues from sliding backward and blocking your airway. 

Another popular treatment for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure machine, or CPAP. Users wear a mask that provides continuous air pressure to ensure enough airflow and keep your throat open throughout the night. Sometimes a mouthguard and CPAP machine are used together. 

If you believe that you or someone you love could suffer from sleep apnea, do not delay getting a diagnosis and beginning treatment. Call Tristate Pulmonary Medical Practice at 724-728-5995 or book your appointment with Dr. Laracuente online. Don’t lose another night’s sleep to sleep apnea when treatments are available. 

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