When you search on the internet for solutions to problems with daytime sleepiness or insomnia, you quickly find that you’re far from alone. Millions of Americans struggle with getting enough sleep and with getting sleep that’s high quality and restful.
Many of them have a sleep breathing disorder called sleep apnea. The word “apnea” has a Greek root that means “not breathing.” If you have sleep apnea, you literally stop breathing for seconds at a time, hundreds to thousands of times a night.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which some part of your anatomy blocks your airways while you sleep. It could be your tongue and throat tissues, excess fat on your neck, narrowed nasal passages, or overly large tonsils.
Maria Dolgovina, MD, our sleep expert and a board-certified neurologist at Advanced Medical Care in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, diagnoses and treats sleep apnea. If you don’t feel rested, she administers a sleep study to determine why.
Are you a candidate for sleep medicine? Ask the following questions to determine if you’re at risk for sleep apnea.
Although not everyone who snores has sleep apnea and not everyone with OSA snores (or know they snore), snoring is a classic sign. If you’re not sure whether you snore, you can ask your partner. You can also try a sleep app that monitors the sounds and movements you make during sleeping.
Other classic signs of OSA are gagging or gasping for breath in the middle of the night. Even if you don’t experience apneas, where you stop breathing altogether, you may experience hypopneas, which are less than full breaths.
If you’re overweight or obese, the extra weight in your body can compress your airways, making it harder to breathe fully and deeply. Men whose neck measures 17 inches or more around and women whose necks are 16 inches or more are at increased risk.
Not only are you more likely to develop OSA if you’re obese, gaining more weight can increase the condition’s severity. If you have mild OSA and gain just 10% of your body weight, you increase your risk of progressing to severe OSA times six. The good news is that if you lose 10% of your body weight, you may improve your OSA by 20%.
Other anatomical issues that increase your risk for obstructive sleep apnea include anything else that narrows your airway or your nasal passages.
A deviated septum, for instance, blocks the air in one nostril, making it difficult to get full breaths through your nose. If your jaw or chin is recessed, it may press against your airway while you sleep.
You may find relief from snoring and awakenings if you sleep on your side. Side sleeping prevents your jaw from sinking back into your neck, blocking your airway. If you don’t feel better, though, be sure to get a sleep test to find out if you have OSA so you can get treatment.
Part of aging means the weakening of tissues and muscles so they can’t function as well as they used to. Your muscles may no longer be able to keep your airway open when you recline. If you’re older than 50, you’re more at risk for OSA. Men are also more likely to develop the condition than women are.
The only way to know for sure if you have sleep apnea and its severity is to undergo a sleep study. Once Dr. Dolgovina diagnoses OSA, she can prescribe the right treatment for you.
To schedule a sleep apnea evaluation, make an appointment at Advanced Medical Care today.