What is sleep apnea? A breakdown of the elusive disorder

If you’re someone asking, “what is sleep apnea?”, you’ve come to the right place. Because we’ll answer that question… eventually.  There are tons of sleep disorders out there, including insomnia and narcolepsy, but sleep apnea is unique because it’s practically unidentifiable. If that’s the case, how do we know sleep apnea is even a thing? Because millions of people in the United States suffer from diagnosed sleep apnea.  According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, “Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, have become a significant health issue in the United States. It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed” (ASAA, 2020).  Meaning, I could have sleep apnea, you could have sleep apnea, we all could have sleep apnea.  But again, “what is sleep apnea?”. You probably just want me to get on with it, so let’s do it. Let’s get on with it. 

What is sleep apnea? 

The Mayo Clinic says that, “Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the tongue collapses against the soft palate and the soft palate collapses against the back of the throat during sleep, and the airway is closed”.  What does that mean?  You stop breathing for a short amount of time, multiple times an hour. Now, you might think that’s not so bad. If it’s only momentary and it’s a short amount of time, it’s not fatal. How can it be?  Sleep apnea may not be harmful in-and-of itself, but it leads your physical and mental health in a downward spiral toward some significant medical issues.  Here’s a list: 
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  • High-blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

Sleep apnea symptoms

  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Snoring 
  • Insomnia
  • Sore throat in the morning
  • Moodiness
  • Stop breathing in the middle of the night (someone else would witness this, obviously)
what is sleep apnea Please don’t self-diagnose based on this list. Use this list to schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist to receive proper diagnosis and treatment.  Moving on. 

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Most of the time, diagnosis requires an in-clinic sleep study where patients wear an uncomfortable amount of hoses and straps and all forms of strange technologies. It looks/feels similar to a sci-fi movie where scientists experiment on someone and monitor them with all kinds of crazy gadgets.  But that’s no longer the case!  At least, not at the Ear, Nose and Throat Institute. We’re diagnosing in the comfort of your own home with a less obtrusive device and less scary scientists monitoring your every snore (literally no one’s watching you). 

How is sleep apnea treated?  

Once the diagnosis process is complete and the specialist says, “you gots the apnea”, it’s on to the treatment process. The main treatment options include CPAP or Inspire.  CPAP is a smaller breathing machine that connects a hose and mask to your face, opening up the airways at night whilst you sleep. Inspire is next-level. We may all be living in the 2020s, but Inspire is living in the 3020s. Essentially, Inspire is a small device that acts as a pacemaker for your breathing. At night, it releases an electrical current that opens up the airways and keeps you breathing right. No mask, no hose, no problem. Watch the video to learn more:  To schedule an at-home sleep study, call 770-740-1860 or fill out the form at the top of the page.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hYHEk-ghog


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