Quality Sleep is Essential to Good Health
Although often overlooked, quality sleep is essential to our overall health and well-being. A good night’s sleep can improve your memory, boost your immune system, strengthen your heart and even help you maintain a healthy weight. Conversely, conditions that prevent us from getting enough quality sleep can lead to morning headaches, irritability, memory problems, daytime sleepiness and a host of very serious health issues.
Call to Schedule an Appointment TodayTo schedule an in-person or virtual appointment with a University Hospitals sleep specialist, call 216-844-6000 or schedule online.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the most common sleep disorders that can have a negative effect on one’s quality of sleep and general health.
OSA occurs when the upper airway partially or fully closes during sleep, resulting in pauses or limitations of airflow to the lungs. This can lead to intermittent dips in oxygen levels, variability in the pulse rate, and frequent arousals from sleep. Along with impairing daytime functioning and restful sleep, OSA is associated with several medical problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, and stroke. People with obstructive sleep apnea often experience excessive snoring and nighttime gasping as frequent symptoms.
How is OSA diagnosed?
The diagnosis of OSA involves a comprehensive sleep history as well as a sleep study. Sleep studies can be performed in a sleep lab or in the home setting. For patients who do not have other serious health problems and have classic OSA symptoms, home sleep testing can be a convenient way to establish a diagnosis. Home sleep testing involves wearing a small apparatus to measure breathing flow, breathing effort, and oxygen level while you sleep in your own bed. For more complicated cases, in-lab sleep testing is the gold standard that provides the most sleep information. This involves measures of breathing, sleep movements, and the brain waves of sleep.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatments
If a sleep study shows evidence of OSA, your disease may be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. Your sleep medicine team will work closely with other experts in otolaryngology (ENT), dentistry/orthodontics, oral surgery, psychology, and weight management to formulate a treatment plan that is personalized to your specific needs.
Recommended treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms and the level of medical risk for each patient. For mild to moderate sleep apnea, conservative, nonsurgical treatments to manage symptoms may be prescribed. For severe sleep apnea, there are several surgical procedures that may be recommended.
Untreated, sleep apnea can lead to:
Reduced quality of life: Apnea sufferers tend to be tired and sleepy throughout the day, unable to function well. They also exhibit poor memory and concentration.
Cardiovascular disease: OSA increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation and other heart arrhythmias.
Impaired driving: Studies show people with sleep apnea are more likely to have motor vehicle accidents.
Relationship problems: Sleep apnea can negatively affect the health of a spouse or life partner, making them more prone to developing insomnia or other sleeping disorders.
Nonsurgical Treatment Options for OSA
For patients with a confirmed diagnosis of OSA, one or more conservative treatment options may be the first recommended course of treatment.
Treatment options may include:
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
CPAP is the standard first-line OSA therapy, especially for mild to moderate disease. CPAP involves the delivery of positive air pressure through a tube and mask that sits over the nose and/or mouth; this serves to hold the throat open during sleep. CPAP can be highly effective with nightly use. There are many options for machine modes, pressure settings, and masks for each individual patient. Evidence suggests those who use CPAP therapy and resolve their sleep apnea lower their cardiovascular risk back to normal.
Yet even with recent advancements in CPAP therapy, some patient still experience adjustment difficulties. For these patients, our sleep specialists provide additional assistance including:
- A variety of CPAP masks, including a nose mask or nasal pillow
- Adjustments to heat and humidity for patients with sinus congestion
- Pressure modifications
- Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy (OAT) uses a mouth guard-like apparatus that sits on the upper and lower teeth. Made by dentists with special training in sleep problems, OAT holds the lower jaw forward, preventing throat collapse and improving nighttime breathing. Oral appliances are often helpful for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
- Weight Loss
For many patients, weight plays a role in OSA symptom severity. Even a small change in weight – up or down – can have a significant effect on the extent of throat collapse during sleep. When weight is in a normal range, the menu of OSA treatment options expands. Our UH weight loss specialists are available to discuss medical, nutritional and bariatric surgery weight loss solutions for overweight patients.
- Lifestyle Modifications
Lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding alcohol or other sedating medications, quitting smoking, and even throat exercises, may decrease throat collapse during sleep.
A majority of OSA is positional; most patients have more breathing pauses while sleeping flat on their back rather than on their side, stomach, or in a reclined position. Special beds or devices that discourage sleeping flat on the back may be recommended to certain patients to improve their OSA symptoms.
Surgical Treatments for Sleep Apnea
If medical interventions and lifestyle changes are not effective in resolving the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, surgery may be recommended. University Hospitals offers a full range of surgical treatment options to help improve your sleep and enhance your quality of life.Learn more about surgical treatments for OSA