Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing for several seconds at a time, multiple times a night. These interruptions in your sleep pattern can result in a number of side effects, some of which can be serious. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, even if it is mild, you should consult a doctor for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can cause a variety of symptoms and can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. The easiest way to determine if you have sleep apnea is for someone to observe your breathing cessation. Many people have been able to determine they were experiencing apnea because their partner noticed that they were having episodes. This kind of direct observation is very useful to your doctors.
Other symptoms that you might be suffering from apnea include:
- Snoring, especially if it is excessive or very loud
- Overall restless sleep patterns
- Excessive sleepiness
- Pervasive fatigue
- Flu-like symptoms
If you are constantly tired or tend to fall asleep frequently during the day, it could be due to loss of sleep during apnea episodes. Extensive periods of interrupted sleep can lead to an overall feeling of malaise similar to the flu, but usually without an accompanying fever.
To diagnose sleep apnea, your doctor will probably schedule a sleep study, during which you sleep in a sleep lab where careful observation can determine if you are suffering from episodes of apnea.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Treatment for apnea can vary depending upon how severe it is and what you and your doctor feel will work best for you. Special appliances worn at night, made by a prosthodontist, can hold your airway open, allowing free movement of air. Your doctor or dentist might also recommend a CPAP machine, which maintains a constant, gentle flow of air to keep the airway from closing while you sleep. Proper diagnosis and treatment help you sleep more soundly and comfortably and prevent the uncomfortable side effects associated with sleep apnea.
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