Feeling fatigued after eight hours of sleep isn’t abnormal, but it can be a sign that something is wrong with your lifestyle, health, or sleeping patterns. If you regularly find yourself tired during the day and have a partner that complains about your snoring, there’s a good chance that you’re experiencing obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder.
Dr. Margaret Culotta-Norton in Washington, DC, has experience dealing with sleep apnea patients. She and her team can help determine if you have sleep apnea, and recommend treatments to correct your condition.
Understanding sleep apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea, which stems from the brain, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by a blocked airway. Central sleep apnea is rather rare, so the phrase “sleep apnea” usually refers to OSA.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in your throat relax and collapse in on themselves, restricting airflow. When this occurs, your body naturally tries to reopen the airway, leading you to snore, gasp, and jerk awake throughout the night.
While many people with OSA “wake up” multiple times throughout the night, many of these sleep interruptions go unnoticed. However, the effects of sleep apnea are still present when you wake up.
8 common signs of sleep apnea
While one person might only have five or 10 sleep interruptions per hour, another might experience up to 30. Regardless of how often they wake up due to OSA, those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea usually experience similar symptoms. These include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, caused by a lack of proper rest
- Nocturia, or frequent nighttime urination
- Changes in mood and behavior, including depression and irritability
- Waking up with a dry mouth and headache
- Snoring, usually reported by a partner or recorded on a sleep app
- Difficulty concentrating, limited attention span, and cloudy thinking
- Decreased interest in sex due to a tanked libido
- Jerking awake at night, usually accompanied by gasping or “choking”
As you can guess, sleep apnea can wreak havoc on your waking life. It can worsen mental health issues like depression, put a strain on relationships, and lower your performance at work or school.
Treatment options for sleep apnea
Plenty of people experience obstructive sleep apnea. As a result, you have a variety of options when it comes to treatment.
Oral appliances are widely considered the easiest treatment for OSA. These devices can be fashioned by a dentist, and they work by holding your airway open while you sleep. While they might not work for everyone, they’re a good starting point for someone struggling with sleep apnea.
Cases of moderate to severe sleep apnea might benefit from a CPAP machine, which provides continuous positive airway pressure. This increases the air pressure in your throat, allowing you to breathe easier.
Surgery is also an option when other treatments fail. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) removes excess tissue from your throat to clear the airway, and maxillomandibular advancement adjusts the jaw to improve airflow. In extreme cases of sleep apnea, a tracheostomy can provide patients with a breathing tube.
Don’t feel intimidated by discussions of surgery — most cases of obstructive sleep apnea can be treated using oral appliances and CPAP machines. To learn more about your options and discuss your treatment, reach out to Dr. Margaret Culotta-Norton. Schedule a consultation by calling 202-833-1111, or request an appointment online.