What Is Sleep Apnea? Hampton Roads, VA

If you think you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), get attention immediately.

A sufferer can completely stop breathing numerous times per hour. It can lead to dangerous instances in your everyday life, or even death in extreme cases. It is a slow, persistent drain on your quality of life.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is gaining tremendous attention as an acute public health concern. A study by the Institute of Medicine reports that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and wakefulness. One in five car accidents is associated with driver sleepiness.

How does sleep apnea occur?

Sleep apnea comes from Greek, meaning “without breath”. Breathing pauses can last from several seconds to minutes and happen as often as 30 times or more per hour.

  • OSA occurs when the muscles and tissue surrounding the throat relax too much during sleep. When this happens, they block the airway from collapsing and keeping air from reaching the lungs. Frequently, the tongue then falls into the back of the throat, which tightens the blockage and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs.
  • The blockage causes the blood’s carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket and oxygen levels to decrease. Therefore, the heart has to pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
  • At some point during this blockage, the brain (hopefully!) senses an imbalance. It partially awakens you so you can reestablish the flow of oxygen. This cycle repeats constantly throughout the night, causing you to never get a truly restful night of sleep.
  • A heart attack can occur if your vascular system is too stressed or the brain doesn’t notice this imbalance soon enough.
  • The brain sends a message to the body telling it to wake up to restart breathing. People with sleep apnea will be partially awake as they struggle to breathe. Usually, you’ll also hear loud snorting or choking noises.
  • People with sleep apnea are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder. They’re rarely fully awake and aware when these things happen.Therefore, their sleep apnea may remain undiagnosed.

Does sleep matter?

The Quality of Your Sleep Affects Everything

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep helps protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and overall safety.

How you feel while awake depends greatly on what happens while you sleep. During sleep, your body supports healthy brain function and maintains physical health.

In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

  • Your brain suffers if it can’t go through the proper sleep stages overnight. This can compromise things like your short term memory.
  • Your body is often deprived of oxygen when you’re sleeping with sleep apnea. This impacts the vascular system as well as your brain.

Does sleep apnea go away on its own?

No. It is extremely rare for this serious condition to go away on its own without medical intervention. The only way to truly beat sleep apnea involves tissue removal.

You can either lose weight or get surgery to remove excess tissue. We can help you control your symptoms and protect your overall health. Dr. Harper can also advise you on ways to fix sleep apnea naturally.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It can be difficult to realize that you have sleep apnea. If you have a partner or roommate, they may be able to tell you if they notice you snoring at night.

You may also consciously wake yourself up, realize you were snoring, and wake up with a noise. You might notice headaches when you wake up and experience fatigue throughout the day. Depression sets in, and you get easily mad or irritated by things.

If you’re noticing just one of these things, it’s easy to push it to the back of your mind and not worry about it. But you must contact our office as soon as you notice symptoms. This is especially true if you have multiple of these symptoms. Bring concerns to a professional as soon as possible to avoid the harsher consequences of untreated sleep apnea.

At your consultation, we perform a physical exam and talk to you about your medical history and current conditions. We’ll ask questions about any symptoms you’re having and your sleep habits.

Typically, we need a sleep study to properly diagnose sleep apnea. We do some versions in the office or there are ones that you can take and do at home. We’ll help you determine which option is the best option for you.

CPAP machines are usually the most common treatment option for sleep apnea. However, they’re uncomfortable and can be hard for people to sleep with.

We focus on oral appliance therapy. It positions your jaw while you sleep so that your airway remains open throughout the night. In severe cases, we can perform surgery.

What issues can sleep apnea cause?

Sleep apnea causes extra stress on the body, particularly the heart. The side effects of untreated sleep apnea are diverse. Sleep apnea can trigger serious health problems like the following:

  • Chronic sleepiness or fatigue
  • Heart attack
  • Recurrent heart attack
  • Heartburn (GERD)
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure / Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Obesity
  • Abnormal heartbeats / atrial fibrillation

Schedule A Consultation Today

Do you have concerns, or have you been diagnosed by your physician with sleep issues? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Harper to learn more about the benefits of oral appliance therapy. Dr. Harper accepts Newport News, Chesapeake, and Norfolk, Virginia patients.