No one likes to be told that they snore loudly. It can be a serious inconvenience for your bed partner and a source of embarrassment for you. But did you know that snoring is often a sign that you suffer from sleep apnea? This serious health condition impacts about 12 million people across the country and can place you at risk of other serious disorders if it is not treated properly.
Dr. Heather Fleschler understands the serious risks associated with sleep apnea, and she can help you devise a treatment plan that will alleviate the condition, restoring a restful night’s sleep. Please call (713) 660-6500 today to schedule a consultation. Dr. Fleschler serves patients in the West University, Bellaire, River Oaks, and Meyerland areas of Houston.
See What Our Patients Are Saying:
“I love Dr. Fleschler’s work, her office, and employees. I never wait long to be taken back for treatment. When I’m in the back I’m made really comfortable by her hygienist/assistant. I love this place!” -Thresa P.
Understanding the Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes you to experience interruptions in breathing repeatedly throughout the night. In order to resume breathing, your brain must rouse you from sleep. This cycle can occur hundreds of times a night without you being aware of it.
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the condition, occurs when the soft tissue in your throat collapses and blocks your airway. This airway blockage results in an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain and heart while you sleep. Over time, this can place you at a greater risk of developing conditions such as:
- Heart attack
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- High blood pressure
- Gastric reflux
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Other warning signs that you may suffer from this condition include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Daytime sleepiness
- Waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
- Reduced sex drive
- Weight gain
- Headaches in the morning
- Short term memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sore throat or dry mouth
If you suffer from one or more of these symptoms, Dr. Fleschler can perform a sleep evaluation to determine whether sleep apnea is the cause.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Once we have performed a thorough diagnostic exam, Dr. Fleschler will devise a customized sleep apnea treatment plan based on your unique condition. For mild cases of sleep apnea, you may be able to alleviate the condition by making minor lifestyle adjustments.
However, for more serious cases, Dr. Fleschler may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Oral appliance therapy
- CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)
- Positional sleep therapy
Don’t delay in seeking your sleep apnea diagnostic evaluation. The sooner you begin treatment, the greater your chance of avoiding the serious health risks associated with this condition. Click here to find out more about the Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep Apnea FAQs
What causes sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form, and is treated by Dr. Fleschler. This type of sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. Because they support all of the surrounding tissues, such as the tonsils and side walls of the throat, when these muscles relax these tissues can collapse inward, narrowing the airway or completely blocking it. In some people their tongue can also fall backward a bit, blocking the upper airway. In others, the airway tissues simply aren’t rigid enough and collapse on themselves. When we’re awake, our brains make sure our tongue stays out of the way and it makes sure we keep the muscles involved with our airway rigid. And, of course, we’re not lying down so gravity doesn’t play a part. But when we’re asleep, our brain isn’t paying attention, until it is forced to rouse the person because the airflow has been blocked.
Who is more likely to suffer from sleep apnea?
There are certain characteristics/risk factors that make it more likely someone would suffer from sleep apnea. These are:
- Having a neck circumference over 17 inches
- Being obese
- Having overly large tonsils and adenoids
- Having a small lower jaw with a deep overbite
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
Can sleep apnea be treated surgically?
If sleep apnea patients don’t respond to oral appliance therapy, CPAP, or other non-surgical treatments, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is tailored to the area of obstruction in each particular patient. These areas of obstruction can be anywhere in the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, tongue, and throat. Here are the most common surgical approaches, along with brief descriptions:
What could happen if I don’t treat my sleep apnea?
Leaving sleep apnea untreated is a bad idea; you’re basically rolling the dice on various serious health concerns. Your body needs consistent deep sleep to repair tissues and other body processes; it does this while we sleep. Sleep apnea can cause serious damage to your body, even shortening your life. Not treating sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, automobile accidents, diabetes, depression, and other health problems.
What is positional sleep therapy?
Positional sleep therapy is a behavioral strategy used to treat what it known as “positional sleep apnea,” which generally occurs when a person sleeps on his or her back. The idea is to keep the patient sleeping on their side, rather than their back. This therapy may include wearing a special device around your waist or back that keeps you sleeping on your side. There is also another option that uses “vibro-tactile feedback.” This is worn on the back of the neck, and when the patient starts to sleep on their back it gently vibrates. This doesn’t wake the person, but it does signal the body to change positions.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
Dr. Fleschler will evaluate your symptoms and you’ll be asked to provide a sleep history/sleep diary. You’ll need help from a spouse or partner for this.
From there, evaluation will likely include overnight monitoring at a sleep center, or possibly a home sleep test will suffice. These are the two typical tests used to detect sleep apnea:
- Nocturnal polysomnography — At a sleep center, you are hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung, and brain activity. It also records breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.
- Home sleep tests — Testing may be able to be done at home by using portable monitoring devices. These devices provide simplified testing, usually of your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns.
What are some lifestyle changes I can use to try and curtail my sleep apnea?
There are certain lifestyle choices that could be leading to your sleep apnea. These changes may help you reduce the effects of sleep apnea:
- Maintain a healthy weight — People who are overweight, especially those who carry weight around the jaw and neck, are more likely to have sleep apnea than those who maintain a healthy weight. The extra fat and tissue around the neck can easily sag and create blockage in the airway.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs — Alcohol and certain drugs act to relax the central nervous system. This can cause the muscles of the throat to relax, leading to blocking of the airway.
- Quit smoking — Cigarette smoking decreases lung capacity and it shrinks blood vessels. Both of these play a part in sleep apnea in smokers. Quitting will improve the way your body breathes.
- Address allergies — If you have allergies, taking a decongestant before you go to bed may improve airflow through your nose.