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Sleep Apnea: Getting a Better Night's Rest
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 12 Noon (Eastern Time)

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Laurence Smolley, MD

  • Sleep Medicine Specialist
  • Medical Director, Sleep Disorders Center
  • Department of Pulmonary Medicine
  • Cleveland Clinic Florida

If you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep and have often been told you snore loudly, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is being interrupted during sleep. Untreated sleep apnea means that a person can stop breathing up to hundreds of times per night. Left untreated, this condition can lead to other health ailments including hypertension, heart failure, diabetes and stroke. Job impairment, work related accidents, and motor vehicle crashes can also result from untreated sleep apnea.

There are two different types of sleep apnea, obstructive and central. Obstructive, the more common of the two, blocks the airway either partially or completely during sleep. During an episode, the chest muscles and diaphragm work harder as the pressure increases to open the airway. When breathing resumes, there is usually a body jerk or loud gasps. For individuals with central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscle to breathe. This is due to instability in the respiratory control center. Central sleep apnea mainly has to do with the functioning of the central nervous system.

Sleep apnea occurs in about 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women. Anyone, including babies, can be diagnosed with sleep apnea but it is more common in adults over forty and people who are overweight. More often than not, your spouse or partner will recognize the first signs of possible sleep apnea as many patients report no sleep complaints. Most common symptoms include snoring, daytime sleepiness or fatigue, restlessness during sleep, sudden awakening from gasping or choking, dry mouth or sore throat when waking up, night sweats, and headaches.

Cleveland Clinic Florida’s Sleep Disorders Center is one of only six fully accredited sleep disorder centers in the tri-county region. Our diagnostic sleep lab in Weston conducts sleep studies to accurately diagnose a variety of sleep disorders including sleep apnea. Our multidisciplinary team of specialists collaborates to provide the most advanced treatment options for patients when more conventional therapies have failed. Mechanical therapy is the preferred method of treatment for sleep apnea and uses continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Patients wear a mask over their mouth and nose, and this prevents airways from collapsing during sleep.

Surgery can also help with sleep apnea but is reserved for people who have excessive or malformed tissue obstructing airflow through the nose or throat, such as a deviated nasal septum, markedly enlarged tonsils, or small lower jaw with an overbite that causes the throat to be abnormally narrow. These procedures are typically performed after sleep apnea has failed to respond to conservative measures and a trial with a CPAP mask. For more information about advanced treatment options to help you get a better night’s sleep, log on and speak with one of our Cleveland Clinic Florida sleep medicine experts.

This Health Chat will open on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 to allow you to submit questions. We will try to answer as many questions as possible during the chat. Please create an account to attend the chat and submit your questions.