Sleep Apnea Frequently Asked Questions – Birmingham

People generally know that sleep apnea is related to snoring and sleep interruptions, but sometimes that’s it. We field many questions about sleep apnea at our Birmingham practice. Dr. Michael Maniscalco has years of experience addressing these matters, and he will be more than happy to discuss them with you during your visit. The team here would like to take this opportunity to answer some of the most common questions about sleep apnea. This should give you a good basic understanding of what it is, the symptoms to look out for, and how it can be treated.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that involves the interruption of regular breathing during sleep. People may stop breathing for a few seconds, though in severe cases they may stop breathing for a minute or more. These breathing interruptions can occur between 5 to 30 times an hour.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

There are a number of sleep apnea symptoms to consider when asleep and awake. Some of the most common sleep apnea symptoms include:

  • Loud or chronic snoring
  • Choking or gasping while you sleep
  • Frequently waking up during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Persistent sore throat or dry throat
  • Changes in mood
  • Poor memory
  • Slower reaction time

If you should notice any of the warning signs of sleep apnea, contact our Birmingham practice for a consultation.

What causes sleep apnea?

There are different causes of sleep apnea. The exact cause will depend on the type of sleep apnea you suffer from. The three kinds of sleep apnea are as follows:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA)
  • Complex sleep apnea

What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common kind of sleep apnea. During OSA, a blockage in the airway results in interrupted sleep. This blockage is usually related to the soft tissue in the back of a person’s throat or structural issues in the sinuses and nasal cavity.

What is central sleep apnea (CSA)?

Central sleep apnea is the rarest kind of sleep apnea. During CSA, the brain temporarily stops signaling the muscles that control a person’s breathing.

What is complex sleep apnea?

Complex sleep apnea refers to a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

There are a few ways for the team at our Birmingham practice to diagnose sleep apnea. One option is to conduct a sleep study (polysomnogram). This will allow us to monitor your respiration, your heart rate, your muscle activity, and other factors while you sleep. Another option is oximetry, while will measure the oxygenation of the blood.

Generally the sleep study allows for better results and diagnosis, especially when it comes to determining the kind of sleep apnea you suffer from.

What are the dangers of sleep apnea?

There are many health dangers related to sleep apnea that go beyond mere drowsiness. Many people experience poor reaction time, memory loss, inability to concentrate, and fatigue. In addition, sleep apnea has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including:

  • Clinical depression
  • Diabetes
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems

Who is at risk for developing sleep apnea?

People of all sexes and ages may develop sleep apnea, but the following factors tend to put people at greater risk for developing the sleep disorder:

  • Being male
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Being older than 40
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea
  • Having large soft tissues in the mouth (e.g., tonsils, tongue, adenoids)
  • Having a small jawbone
  • Having a thick neck
  • Having a deviated septum and other nasal cavity or sinus issues
  • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

What treatments are available for sleep apnea?

There are a number of different treatment options available for sleep apnea. The best treatment for you and your needs will depend on the kind of sleep apnea you’re suffering from.

Generally, patients are helped a great deal by the CPAP machine, various surgeries for nasal blockages, and through dental appliances and lifestyle changes. We can determine the best sleep apnea treatment for you during your consultation at our Birmingham practice.

What is CPAP and how does it work?

The CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine helps maintain consistent airflow in the air passages when you sleep. Patients will wear the mouthpiece/nosepiece at night, with the machine usually placed on the nightstand or beside the bed.

What non-surgical treatments should I consider?

There are several dental treatments and behavioral therapies for sleep apnea to consider. This may include weight loss, changes in sleeping position, or the use of minimally invasive dental devices. At our Birmingham practice, we’ll recommend these sleep apnea therapies if they seem viable for your needs.

What dental appliances can help my sleep apnea case?

There are two common dental appliances used to treat sleep apnea. One of them is the mandibular advancement device (MAD), which positions the lower jaw to allow for an unblocked airway. The other is the tongue restraining device (TRD), which holds the tongue in place and prevents it from blocking your air passage.

Are there surgeries to treat sleep apnea?

There is a lot to consider when it comes to surgical treatment for sleep apnea. The most common procedures include nasal cavity surgery, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), mandibular maxillar advancement (MMA) surgery, and pillar palatal implants.

Some surgeries will target the nasal cavity or sinuses, helping to treat a deviated septum or other potential obstructions. Others will address and/or correct the soft tissues or structures within the mouth around the throat and palate.

Learn More About Sleep Apnea Treatments in Birmingham

We have only touched on the basics here, so you no doubt have many other questions about sleep apnea. That’s why we encourage you to visit Dr. Maniscalco in person. During your consultation, you can have all of your questions answered in full detail. We will be more than happy to address the concerns that you may have. To schedule a visit with Dr. Maniscalco, contact our Birmingham practice for sleep apnea treatment today.