Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Loud snoring can be a sign that something is seriously wrong with your breathing during sleep. Snoring indicates that the airway is not fully open, and the distinctive sound of snoring comes from efforts to force air through the narrowed passageway. Sleep can become a time of increased health risk.

An estimated 10-30 percent of adults snore. For the majority of them, snoring has no serious medical consequences. For 5 percent — particularly overweight and middle-aged men — extremely loud nightly snoring is an indication of a potentially life-threatening disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSA).

Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

When you sleep, all of your body’s muscles relax more than they do during waking hours. This doesn’t cause problems for most people, but for those individuals with small throats, this relaxation lets the airway narrow and interferes with breathing. Alcohol, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers taken at bedtime also reduce muscle tone and can make the throat more likely to narrow and even collapse. Some people with OSA sleep worse when they take a sleeping pill.

Warning Signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring may be so loud that it disturbs others’ sleep. A particular pattern of snoring interrupted by witnessed pauses, then gasps, reveals that the sleeper’s breathing stops and restarts.

Adults with OSA have unrefreshing sleep, and can fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as at work, at the movies, or while driving.

Adults with OSA can have trouble concentrating and can become usually forgetful, irritable, anxious, or depressed. They can also complain about frequent nighttime urination and morning dry mouth, and sometimes drooling. Children with OSA may have trouble staying alert in class.

These problems usually appear slowly over many years. Sometimes OSA symptoms go unnoticed, or their significance is downplayed. Family members, employers, or co-workers may be the first to recognize a pattern of inattentiveness or excessive daytime sleepiness.

Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are a variety of treatment options for OSA.

One common therapy is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Pressure from an air compressor helps air pass through the mouth and nose via a small mask that is worn over the nose, the mouth, or both during sleep. This gentle pressure holds the throat open and allows for normal sleep and breathing. A formal overnight sleep study at one of our sleep centers is required to establish a diagnosis and to set the optimal CPAP level.

For patients who are unable to use CPAP, Hoag is the first in Orange County to offer an innovative new treatment option called Inspire® Upper Airway Stimulation therapy. Approved by the FDA, Inspire therapy is a small, fully implantable system that continuously monitors your breathing patterns during sleep. It requires no mask or oral appliance and is designed to work with your body’s anatomy. Based on your unique breathing patterns, the system delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles, keeping the airway open.

Inspire therapy is clinically proven to reduce sleep apnea events in patients with moderate to severe OSA. Your doctor will help determine the right individual treatment for you. To learn more, contact us.