Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that can significantly disrupt the quality of your rest and also pose serious health risks. This condition causes repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, which leads to pronounced symptoms such as loud snoring or an unusual amount of daytime tiredness. 

There are three different forms of sleep apnea: 

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common type, occurs due to a physical blockage in the airway; 
  2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) arises when the brain fails to signal the muscles responsible for breathing; 
  3. Complex Sleep Apnea, a combination of both OSA and CSA. 

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial, as untreated sleep apnea can lead to severe health complications over time. If you’re experiencing symptoms or if someone has noticed that you snore loudly or gasp for air in your sleep, consulting with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist can enhance your health and quality of life.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

One of the primary causes of sleep apnea is a partial or complete obstruction of the airway during sleep. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including obesity, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a deviated septum, or other structural abnormalities of the nose and throat. In some cases, sleep apnea may also be related to underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

“Sleep apnea is a complex sleep disorder that can have serious implications for one’s health and well-being. At Granville Health System’s ENT practice, we frequently encounter patients with sleep apnea and emphasize the importance of seeking care. The right treatment, tailored to each patient, can make a significant difference in sleep quality and overall health,” said Dr. Richard Alexander, MD, PhD, MBA – Granville Health System.

Regardless of the cause, the consequences of sleep apnea can be serious. People with untreated sleep apnea are at an increased risk of accidents and injuries due to daytime sleepiness and fatigue. They may also experience a range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and depression. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments available for sleep apnea, and consulting with an ENT specialist can help patients identify the best option for their needs.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

There are several methods to improve sleep when living with sleep apnea:

  1. CPAP Therapy: One common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This involves wearing a mask that delivers a steady stream of air into the airway, helping to keep it open during sleep. While CPAP is effective for many patients, some find it uncomfortable or difficult to use consistently.
  2. Custom-Made Oral Devices: Other treatment options for sleep apnea include oral appliances, which are custom-made devices that fit in the mouth to keep the airway open, and surgery to correct structural abnormalities in the nose and throat. An ENT specialist can help patients determine which treatment option is best suited to their individual needs and can provide guidance on how to manage sleep apnea symptoms.
  3. Lifestyle Changes: In addition to these treatment options, lifestyle changes can also be effective in reducing sleep apnea symptoms. Losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives, and sleeping on your side rather than your back are all simple changes that can help improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep apnea-related complications.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Sleep Apnea

If you suspect that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to seek medical attention. An ENT specialist can evaluate your symptoms, perform necessary tests, and provide guidance on the best treatment options for your needs. They can also help you understand the underlying causes of your sleep apnea and provide recommendations for lifestyle changes that can help improve your overall health and well-being.

While sleep apnea can be a serious sleep disorder that may have a significant impact on a person’s health and quality of life, there are solutions. 

“Properly treated sleep apnea can lead to remarkable improvements in sleep quality and overall health. Don’t hesitate to consult with an ENT specialist if you suspect you’re dealing with sleep apnea – the benefits of effective treatment can be truly life-changing,” said Dr. Richard Alexander, MD, PhD, MBA – Granville Health System.

About Granville Health System

For more than 100 years, Granville Health System (GHS) has been delivering quality health care and specialty services to the residents of Granville County, northern Wake County, and beyond. The GHS main campus is located at 1010 College Street, Oxford, North Carolina 27565 with its Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialty practice located at 102 Professional Park Drive, Oxford, North Carolina 27565. For more information about Granville Health System please visit www.GHShospital.org.

FAQS About Sleep Apnea

Can you have Sleep Apnea without snoring?

Yes, you can have sleep apnea without snoring. While snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, it’s not universal. Sleep apnea involves repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. Individuals with sleep apnea may experience other symptoms, such as excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, or waking up feeling unrefreshed. It’s important to recognize these other symptoms, as they can indicate the need for an evaluation for sleep apnea, regardless of whether or not snoring is present.

Are Sleep Apnea and Insomnia Related?

Sleep apnea and insomnia are distinct conditions but can be interrelated. Sleep apnea, characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, can lead to frequent awakenings, which may contribute to insomnia— which is characterized by having difficulty falling or staying asleep. Conversely, individuals with insomnia may experience disrupted sleep patterns that can exacerbate the severity of sleep apnea symptoms.

Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?

Yes, sleep apnea can have a genetic component. Research indicates that individuals with a family history of sleep apnea are more likely to develop the condition themselves. Genetic factors can influence the physical structure of the airway and facial bones, body fat distribution, and neuromuscular control, all of which can contribute to the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. However, it’s important to note that lifestyle factors, such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol use, also play significant roles in the development of sleep apnea. So, while genetics can increase susceptibility, environmental and personal health choices are also critical factors.

Is Sleep Apnea a Disability?

Whether sleep apnea is considered a disability depends on the context and severity of the condition. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a condition is considered a disability if it substantially limits one or more major life activities. Severe sleep apnea can lead to significant impairment in daily functioning, including concentration, memory, and alertness, which could qualify it as a disability under this definition. Moreover, if sleep apnea leads to serious health complications that limit a person’s ability to engage in normal activities, it may also be recognized as a disability.

For the past 100 years, Granville Health System has been delivering quality health care close to home. To meet the growing needs of our community, Granville Health System has expanded its services throughout Granville County, offering convenient access to medical care where you work and live.