More than a Snore
It’s not that unusual for us to snore when we sleep – it’s even what a lot of people associate with being out like a light! But sometimes that snore means something more. If your parents or friends have noticed that your breathing pauses in your sleep, or that your snoring has grown louder every year, it may be sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which teens and kids have a pause in their breathing while sleeping. This disrupts your sleeping patterns, and in time can lead to other issues as well. Left untreated, it can affect your growth, your memory, and your overall health.
The 3 Types of Sleep Apnea
Diagnosing sleep apnea properly is crucial to knowing how best to manage it. There are three types of sleep apnea, each with distinct causes. These three types are known as:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea – This form of sleep apnea typically involves tissue blocking your airway during sleep, which forces the body to adjust. This blockage may be caused by your tonsils, along with other tissue in the upper airway.
- Central Sleep Apnea – This form of sleep apnea is related to issues with the brain’s respiratory center not sending the right signals to your respiratory muscles while you sleep. This may also be caused by a brain injury, hereditary issues, or medicines that could cause fluid buildup in the airway. Typically snoring is not associated with this form of sleep apnea.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea – Much like the name suggests, this is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
Though a distinctive snore can be a symptom of sleep apnea, there are other signs to watch out for. If you’ve noticed any of the following symptoms, then you may have sleep apnea.
- Fogginess after waking up
- Bed wetting
- Teeth grinding
- Behavior changes
- Frequent congestion
- Mouth breathing
Sleep Study Science
Even if you’ve noticed the signs of sleep apnea, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis before beginning treatment. That’s where a sleep study comes into play. Doctors use these to help diagnose sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. Sleep studies are painless and risk-free, but you may need to spend the night in a hospital or sleep center to complete it.
During your sleep study, your doctor or sleep specialist will check for:
- Eye movements
- Heart rate
- Breathing patterns
- Brain waves (wake and sleep patterns)
- Blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels
- Snoring and other noises
- Body movements and sleep positions
Treating Your Sleep Apnea
If your sleep study determines that you have some form of sleep apnea – don’t worry! There are many different forms of treatment for all types of sleep apnea, including:
- See your Doctor – Ask for a referral to an ear, nose and throat doctor to evaluate ways to optimize breathing.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy – CPAP machines use a hose and mask or nosepiece to deliver constant and steady air pressure to you while you sleep.
- Lifestyle Changes – Eating healthy or losing weight doesn’t just improve your overall health, it can also help you sleep better. This is especially true for people suffering obstructive sleep apnea, as weight loss can help clear blockages in your airway.
- Positional Therapy – If breathing problems occur when you are sleeping on your back, using supports to encourage side sleeping may reduce breathing difficulties.
- Oral Devices – These are customized mouthguards or other oral devices that are meant to clear your airway while you sleep. (Most typically for older adolescents and adults.)
If you’ve been feeling like an especially sleepy teen lately and are concerned about sleep apnea, reach out now! The best defense against sleep disorders is being proactive and seeking treatment. But that can only start by talking with your parents, a guardian or your doctor. So don’t delay, get help and sleep better today!