What is Sleep Apnea?
An apnea is a pause in breathing of more than 10 seconds. In a small group of the people who snore, the pharynx is so narrow that the soft palate with the uvula and the walls of the throat will occasionally touch, which completely closes off the airways; there is a breathing pause that can last up to 30 seconds or longer.
You suffer from sleep apnea when the breathing pauses occur more than ten times an hour. Note that this blockage poses no risk of suffocation! The brain sends an alarm signal and the snorer will sleep less deeply or even wake up (sometimes short of breath). Then, the muscles in the soft palate and tongue will be tensed, which opens the pharynx, making normal breathing possible. The snorer will fall asleep again. Slowly sleep will become deeper, until another apnea occurs.
Because of all these apnea’s and alarm signals from the brain, the quality of the sleep will be very poor; the patient is barely or not able to sleep deep enough. The sleep apnea patient will not wake up well rested and suffer from fatigue during the day. This is not just feeling tired, but falling asleep involuntarily; for instance during a conversation or reading a paper, but also during other activities such as driving. This can lead to dangerous situations, not only for the patient, but also for other people! Because he or she sleeps so badly, it will be hard to concentrate during the day and the patient can be very forgetful.
The alarm signals from the brain will cause variations in blood pressure levels. Arteries suffer severely and this can cause high blood pressure. So snoring is not only a nuisance for a snorer’s partner, it also harms the health of the snorer. The body and mind of the sleep apnea patient do not get enough rest. The patient recovers less well at night and one might say that this person wears out more quickly. Life expectancy of someone who suffers from sleep apnea is therefore shorter.
Sleep apnea treatment
The treatment of sleep apnea depends on the severity of the abnormality that is found. The seriousness of the sleep apnea is determined by a sleep registration. This registration is done during the natural sleep at night. A lung specialist can perform this sleep registration at the request of an ENT specialist or other specialist. Depending on the outcome, one of the therapies below can be started:
- MAS (Mandibular Advancement Splint)
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)
- UPPP (Uvulo Palato Pharyngo Plastik)