Sleep Apnea in Santa Monica & Torrance CA
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that involves repeated breathing interruptions during sleep. These interruptions may occur hundreds of times each night and may be the result of structural abnormalities or brain malfunctions. During normal breathing, air passes through the nose, past the flexible structures in the back of the throat, including the soft palate, uvula, and tongue.
When a person is awake, the muscles hold this airway open. When they are asleep, these muscles relax and the airway usually stays open. Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway and airflow are blocked, causing the oxygen levels to drop in both in the brain and the blood, resulting in shallow breathing or breathing pauses during sleep.
Sleep apnea is different than simple snoring. Snoring is a symptom – it’s noise you make when you’re sleeping. However, as mentioned previously, patients who have sleep apnea actually have a medical condition where they’re not getting enough oxygen into their blood or to their brain. In those instances, you can’t just treat the snoring, you have to treat the whole condition.
If you believe you suffer from sleep apnea in Santa Monica, Torrance, Los Angeles or surrounding areas, contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs as a result of a partial or fully blocked airway passage in the throat. Certain factors may put certain people at risk, which includes:
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Cardiovascular problems
- Family history
- Nasal congestion
- Throat and tongue muscles that are more relaxed than normal
Adults over the age of 60 may be more at risk because the aging process may limit the brain’s ability to keep the throat muscles stiff during sleep. Heavy use of alcohol or sedatives may also contribute to sleep apnea because these substances may relax the muscles of the throat.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are different types of sleep apnea that have different causes.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form. It occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat closes, blocking or obstructing the airway.
In patients with central sleep apnea the airway remains open but the brain does not send signals to the muscles involved in breathing. Patients with heart-related conditions may suffer from central sleep apnea.
Mixed sleep apnea combines aspects of the obstructive and central types of apnea. A common warning sign of mixed sleep apnea is snoring, especially interspersed with gasps or lack of breathing.
Patients who are overweight, have high blood pressure, are older, smoke or have a family history of sleep apnea may have an increased risk of developing OSA, while those with heart disease or a stroke are at an increased risk for central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Patients with sleep apnea may wake up with a headache in the morning and experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Additional symptoms may include:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up with a dry mouth or a sore throat
- Abrupt awakenings during the night
Individuals may also experience shortness of breath that awakens them from sleep.
Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea
To determine whether or not a patient has sleep apnea, they will undergo a sleep study to see whether or not there’s a problem with oxygenation. Some evaluations often involve overnight monitoring of breathing and other body functions during sleep. Additional diagnostic tests may include home sleep tests and a nocturnal polysomnography, which monitors heart and lung function, brain activity, breathing patterns, and blood oxygen levels during sleep.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
If a patient has sleep apnea, we will first try treatment with a CPAP device, which is machine that allows you to get more air in while you’re sleeping. Once patients receive treatment, they usually find that they’re finally able to sleep and have more energy throughout the day. The beauty is when you have more energy, you can exercise more. When you can exercise more, you can actually lose some of the weight that may have contributed to the sleep apnea in the first place. That being said, a CPAP machine may just be the beginning of treatment for sleep apnea.
If a patient can’t tolerate a CPAP machine, can’t breathe with it or has other medical conditions that prevent treatment with a CPAP machina, then we will talk about potential surgical treatments for sleep apnea. For a mild case of sleep apnea, we might simply consider straightening the patient’s septum or reducing their turbinates. The goal of most surgical procedures is to remove the excess tissue from the nose or throat and open upper air passages to facilitate breathing
For moderate sleep apnea, we may consider enlarged tonsils or a large soft palate as the source. Treatment of the palate and the tonsils may be necessary. Adenoids and tonsils as the source of sleep apnea happens mostly in children. For kids who have sleep apnea, the removal of the tonsils and adenoids is the treatment of choice. In adults, most patients don’t have enlarged adenoids. If they do, removing the adenoids and the tonsils along with the stiffening of the palate may go a long way to treating their sleep apnea.
Custom made oral appliances may also be used to treat sleep apnea. Some devices are designed to open the throat by bringing the jaw forward, which can help to relieve snoring and mild OSA. Left untreated, sleep apnea may cause serious problems, as patients have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
Recovery from Sleep Apnea and Snoring Treatment
If we’re treating patients simply for snoring, the recovery for the different treatment procedures is not bad. In most cases, we’re stiffening the soft palate, and patients will have a mild sore throat for five to seven days.
If we’re treating someone for a nasal obstruction that is the source of their snoring, they will undergo recovery from a septoplasty or turbinate reduction, which is five to seven days worth of recovery where they will have some nasal congestion maybe some sinus pressure.
Patients who require a larger surgical treatment for their sleep apnea may experience a sore throat for 2 to 2 1/2 weeks, which is associated with the removal of the tonsils and stiffening of the palate. Even though treating sleep apnea and snoring can be a bit difficult, the fact is that it is treatable, and patients find that the results they receive are absolutely worth the treatments.
To learn more about sleep apnea and available treatment options at the Daneshrad Clinic, call 310-453-6500. We proudly serve patients from Santa Monica, Torrance, Los Angeles and surrounding areas.