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Sleep Disorders – Sleep Apnea

All over the world in millions of homes, each night people are having a lousy nights sleep caused by our infamous dreaded enemy. Every night we all look forward to a peaceful night’s sleep and every night like clockwork we get a call from that dreaded enemy in the form of our partner or spouse. You no sooner start to fall asleep than your partner or spouse starts to snore. This results in sleep deprivation. Snoring can be more far-reaching than the cause of frustration and sleep disturbance. Snoring could possibly be a symptom of a more serious sleep disorder known as Sleep Apnea.

If you stop breathing for 10 or more seconds at a time and more than ten times an hour during sleep, and if you snore, you may have what has been widely diagnosed as Sleep Apnea. Many people, who are overweight fight an endless battle with restless sleep at night and find themselves nodding off during the day. If you stop breathing during sleep, your brain receives a signal telling you to wake up. The more times you wake from a deep sleep, the more restless you become. In the morning you awaken only to find that you feel like you never slept at all. If you suspect that you have Sleep Apnea, consult your health care provider who will send you to a specialist who can make the diagnosis.

Sleep Apnea is a rather serious problem as it blocks the throat and causes the sleeper to stop breathing for several seconds. As a result you awaken several times a night trying to catch your breath. Such breaks in your sleep pattern can result in significant health issues. Over time snoring could lead to other problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and stroke and in some severe cases even death. Other symptoms of the sleep disorder Sleep Apnea include choking/gasping while sleeping, morning headaches, and tiredness during the day, personality changes, memory impairment, poor concentration, poor judgment, mood swings, recent weight gain, polyurea, and impotence. The signs to look out for are obesity, senility, stress (including anxiety and depression), hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, hypothyroidism, and acromegaly, dislocated temporomandibular joint and neuromuscular disease. Tonsillar Hypertrophy is the most common cause of Sleep Apnea in children.

The idea behind treatment of Sleep Apnea is to keep the airway open and prevent stoppages in breathing during sleep. Various methods used to alleviate Sleep Apnea include:

Behavioral Therapy, which should include avoiding alcohol and CNS depressants close to bedtime, weight reduction and sleep posture modification.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which is an effective noninvasive medical treatment to eliminate snoring and prevent Sleep Apnea. The machine gently blows pressurized air through the nasal passage at a pressure high enough to prevent collapsing of the throat during sleep.

Oral appliances may be used to reposition the lower jaw and tongue, thus opening the throat to allow air to flow freely, while helping treat Sleep Apnea. There are various devices used to prevent the tongue from falling back over the airway.

Surgery such as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

UPPP is the most common type of surgery used to treat Sleep Apnea. It removes all the redundant tissue from the pharynx.

Laser-assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) is a procedure which is performed by a specialist in his/her office. It involves the use of a laser to remove a part of the soft palate, shorten the Uvula (the soft tissue that hangs from the roof of your mouth at the entrance to your throat) and remove excess tissue from the Pharynx.

Tracheostomy, in which a small hole is made in the Trachea or windpipe below the point of obstruction and a small tube is inserted. This tube is only opened during sleeping hours, so that air is able to flow freely and directly into the lungs, by bypassing the blockage that occurs in the throat during sleep.

Another relatively new procedure in the treatment of the sleep disorder Sleep Apnea is radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which makes use of radiofrequency energy to remove tissue from the Uvula, soft palate and tongue thereby helping treat Sleep Apnea. The removal of enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids is the most viable option in the treatment of Sleep Apnea in children and adolescents.

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