While it may sound like it’s a disorder associated solely with sleep, sleep apnea is actually more closely tied to your ear, nose and throat (ENT) health. While it’s most often associated with loud snoring, the truth is that it can be a lot more potentially harmful to your overall health.
Here, we’re going to take a closer look at the symptoms and effects of sleep apnea and when you should seek treatment from an ENT doctor.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common condition that is experienced when loss of breathing or pauses in breathing happen as you sleep. Often, this causes you to wake up abruptly. There is a range of obstructive and cognitive causes of sleep apnea, many of which your ENT doctor can help you diagnose and treat.
As a result of sleep apnea, you can experience a wide range of negative side-effects as your body and brain may not get enough sleep at night. Loud snoring is one of the most common side-effects but it may be more serious than it initially appears.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Loud, frequent snoring
Pauses in breathing when sleeping
Choking or gasping when sleeping
Sleep does not leave you feeling well rested
Headaches in the morning
Fatigue and sleepiness
Having to get up at night to go to the toilet
A decrease in sexual desire
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
This condition can affect anyone and there is no one single circumstance or factor that conclusively defines whether or not you may suffer from sleep apnea at some point. However, here are some of the common risk factors that may contribute to it:
Excess weight: Those who are overweight, with a BMI of 25 or higher, are at a greater risk of sleep apnea.
Gender: Men are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than women
Middle age: While sleep apnea can affect you at any age, it’s more common in those who are in young adulthood or middle age.
Neck size: Sleep apnea is more common in women who have a neck of 16 inches or more and men with a neck size of 17 inches or more.
High blood pressure: Those suffering from hypertension are more likely to experience sleep apnea
Genetics: A family history of sleep apnea may contribute to your own risk
Some of the risk factors above can be mitigated and controlled, while others cannot. For instance, managing your weight may help, but may not be enough alone to treat sleep apnea, so making an appointment with your ENT doctor is always recommended.
Sleep Apnea Health Effects
The quality of your sleep plays a large role in your overall health and not getting enough sleep can cause significant health issues. Sleep apnea directly interferes with sleep quality, which can lead to a variety of long-term effects, including the following:
Mental health effects: People with sleep apnea are more likely to suffer from depression and stress. A lack of sleep can also make you feel mentally groggy, making it harder to maintain focus and concentration and may cause issues with memory loss.
Acid reflux: Sleep apnea can cause and exacerbate issues like heartburn and indigestion.
High blood pressure and heart problems: Sleep apnea can cause your blood pressure to increase over time, leaving you at a higher risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol and blood sugar: Sleep apnea can contribute to the increase of both in your blood, leaving you at higher risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Physical fatigue: A decreased quality of sleep can lead to you feeling unenergetic and tired throughout the day.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Many of the causes of sleep apnea begin in the ear, nose and throat. Obstructions in the airways cut off your ability to breathe, meaning you don’t get enough oxygen when you’re sleeping. For that reason, your ENT doctor may be able to recommend treatments that can effectively relieve sleep apnea. With a thorough consultation, examination and diagnosis, you may be recommended for one of the following treatments:
Reducing the size of oversized turbinates in the nose
Removal of polyps in the sinus or nose
Reducing oversized tissue in the uvula or soft palate
Septoplasty to straighten a crooked or maladjusted septum in the nose
Tonsil and adenoid removal for breathing improvement
If you’re worried about this condition and are seeking advice on sleep apnea treatments, your ENT doctor should be amongst the first places you look for help. Call Mountain Ear, Nose & Throat at one of our convenient locations to arrange your consultation and we will start the journey towards the solution you need together!