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Can You Have Sleep Apnea Without Knowing?

Does it feel like you haven’t gotten a good night of sleep in a long time? Do you wake up with a headache and dry mouth almost every morning? Are you easily irritated and distracted throughout the day? Does your partner complain about your loud snoring?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you might be suffering from sleep apnea without knowing.

When someone has sleep apnea, it means their breathing stops repeatedly while they sleep, causing loud snoring and daytime fatigue, among other symptoms. It is a sleeping disorder that can result in serious health problems if left untreated, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and coronary artery disease. Sleep apnea can impact anyone, but it most commonly affects overweight, older men.

If you are experiencing sleep issues, visit Florida Sinus & Snoring Specialists to see a specialist who can diagnose sleep apnea and offer you treatment options.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

People often joke about snoring; if you snore loudly you might be subject to a lot of teasing. What you may not realize is that your nightly noise could be a sign of a sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder. With sleep apnea, your breathing repeatedly halts and then starts again after you fall asleep.

If you have sleep apnea, it’s highly likely that you are not even aware of these little pauses in your breathing that occur hundreds of times every night. You may only notice that you no longer feel as focused, productive, and energetic during the day as you should.

There are two primary forms of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): The more prevalent type of apnea; it happens when something blocks your airway while you sleep. OSA often occurs when the throat muscles relax too much and stop supporting the soft tissues (tongue, soft palate) in the back of the throat. People with OSA usually snore loudly.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This form of sleep apnea occurs when your brain is unable to activate the breathing muscles properly while you sleep. People with CSA seldom snore.

When someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea, it’s referred to as Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome.

Causes and Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

When your throat muscles are overly relaxed during your sleep, you have obstructive sleep apnea. As those muscles loosen up, your airway becomes more and more congested. This affects your breathing and oxygen levels, leading to a significantly less amount of oxygen circulating in the bloodstream.

As soon as your brain detects the oxygen deficiency, you may jolt awake choking or gasping for air. For many OSA patients, as many as 30 such jolts per hour can happen. Here are some of the known risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea:

You Are Overweight

If you are overweight, there will be a lot of fat accumulation around your upper airway, effectively blocking it. Excess body fat increases the volume of soft tissue in the neck, causing unnecessary strain on your throat muscles. Extra fat around your stomach can also cause breathing difficulties and worsen your OSA.

You Are Male

Science is not yet clear as to why OSA is more common in men than in women. Some researchers believe it could have something to do with the different body fat distribution ratio in men and women. Researchers have also found that the risk of OSA is higher in women who are overweight or have gone through menopause.

You Have a Large Neck

People with a collar size greater than about 17 inches (43cms) have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, men and women who have an unusual inner neck structure (such as narrow airway, small lower jaw, or large tonsils) also tend to be at a greater risk for OSA.

You Have Constant Nasal Congestion

If you are constantly suffering from nasal congestion, it could lead to obstructive sleep apnea. This congestion could be due to nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or something else.

You Are 40 Years of Age or Older

People over the age of 40 have a far greater chance of developing sleep apnea.

You Smoke Heavily

Smokers are 1.2 times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea compared to people who never smoke. Smoking tends to increase the levels of fluid retention and inflammation in the upper airway, which in turn blocks the airway.

Risk factors for CSA are pretty much the same as discussed above for OSA, but an increased risk of central sleep apnea occurs in people taking narcotic pain medications.

How to Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea

The most common sleep apnea symptoms are often first discovered by a bed partner, roommate, friend, or family member who notice your problematic breathing during sleep. Signs can include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Noisy and labored breathing during sleep
  • Waking up with a dry or sore throat
  • Frequently waking up with a gasping or choking sensation
  • Forgetfulness and absent-mindedness
  • Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Morning headaches
  • Restless sleep
  • Changes in the mood
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Night sweats and frequent urge to urinate during the night (in some people)

As explained earlier, sleep apnea is basically multiple breathing interruptions when you are asleep. Most people have no memory of their interrupted breathing, so they are unaware that they even have a problem.

Both OSA and CSA have the potential to turn into bigger health problems if left untreated for a long time. Here are some of the major issues that sleep apnea can cause:

Treatments Available for Sleep Apnea

The most common treatment for mild sleep apnea is Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) – either Bilevel PAP (BPAP or BiPAP) or Continuous PAP (CPAP). These treatments involve having a machine deliver air pressure through a piece that either fits into the patient’s nose or is placed over their nose and mouth during sleep.

CPAP and BiPAP devices were invented in the 1990s and have been used for decades. As effective as they are in reducing the number of respiratory events that occur throughout a night’s sleep, the truth is, most people find them extremely loud and uncomfortable.

Thankfully, medical science has come a long way since then. Today, we have a much more efficient and convenient approach available for treating obstructive sleep apnea for good: Minimally Invasive Palatal Stiffening (MIPS).

If your obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an overextended uvula or a soft palate, and you haven’t had much success with using CPAP machines, you might consider MIPS. At Florida Sinus & Snoring Specialists, our renowned sleep specialist, Dr. Lee Mandel, used his vast knowledge and experience to create MIPS. This breakthrough procedure can be customized to each patient and offers long-lasting relief from sleep apnea, snoring, and related breathing problems.

During the short 3-minute procedure, double board-certified Dr. Mandel makes tiny incisions in the soft palate using a diode laser to correct the area of obstruction. The procedure tightens up your soft palate so as to reduce breathing vibrations and remove obstructions that were previously blocking your airways.

Get Sustainable Relief from Sleep Apnea With MIPS Treatment

Want to improve your sleep in as little as a week? Thousands of obstructive sleep apnea patients who have undergone the MIPS procedure with Dr. Mandel have successfully alleviated their symptoms and seen results within a week. The procedure itself only takes 3 minutes – 15 minutes if you combine it with another minimally-invasive nasal/oral procedure – but its benefits can last a lifetime. If you have any questions or you’d to book an appointment, call Florida Sinus & Snoring Specialists at 954-983-1211 or send us a message online.