Are you a candidate?
First, it’s important to distinguish the difference between simple snoring and OSA, which are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably. Not all people who snore mildly (a vibration in the throat tissues) have OSA, a condition that blocks the airways, halting breathing for up to a minute or more. If you’ve been told that you snore loudly or have stopped breathing, this is serious and should be treated.
OSA is potentially life threatening, especially if you have one or more other health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity (check your BMI at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm).
Neurological disorders can also affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep or, worse, result in physical harm. Abnormal movements, such as acting out your dreams, or nocturnal seizures can cause injury to you and your partner.
IU Health Sleep Disorders Centers start with a questionnaire to help determine if you’re a candidate for a sleep study. You can access it here. Again, if you believe you may have OSA, that alone is reason to be evaluated.
What to expect from the study.
The sleep study usually involves an overnight stay at one of our Sleep Disorders Centers. We have a very informative video about the procedure posted on our website http://iuhealth.org/sleep-disorders. Look for “What to Expect” in the right-hand column of the page.
Possible treatments for OSA.
We always start with the gold standard of treatment, positive airway pressure therapy (PAP), and the most common form we use is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This device works by gently blowing room air through the airway, via a mask, at a pressure high enough to keep the throat open.
If a patient cannot get comfortable using the mask or has mild to moderate OSA, we can consider alternatives. One might be referring the patient to a dental specialist who can fit him or her with an oral appliance (much like a retainer) that opens up the back of the airway. Another alternative would be some form of surgical treatment performed by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon.
The newest form of OSA treatment is a surgically implanted device called a hypoglossal nerve stimulator. It works by monitoring each breath you take while sleeping. Based on your unique breathing patterns, the system delivers mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve that controls the movement of your tongue and other key airway muscles. By stimulating these muscles, the airway remains open during sleep.
OSA is not the only condition our centers treat, but it can have serious cardiovascular consequences if left untreated. It’s also vital to treat any underlying condition, such as obesity. If you have any concerns about your sleep problems, please do not hesitate to contact me or one of our Sleep Disorders Centers.