Causes of sleep apnea can be elusive, much like the condition itself, hiding in plain sight until symptoms become too difficult to ignore. If your partner finally made you go see a sleep specialist due to your snoring, you may have only recently gotten a diagnosis. If so, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why do I have sleep apnea?”
The providers at ENT of New Orleans, with locations in Marrero, New Orleans, Chalmette, and Harvey, Louisiana, can help identify the cause of your sleep apnea episodes, and determine the best course of treatment.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) (the most common kind) happens when your airway closes momentarily, causing oxygen supply to your brain to shut down. This typically happens when the soft tissues in the back of your throat relax during sleep.
Your brain sends a startle response to your body after a certain amount of time without air. This startle response is enough to tighten up the muscles and lift the back of your tongue forward, clearing your airway. In most cases, you’ll snort or snore abruptly, but often you won’t wake up.
You might start having sleep apnea because you’re overweight or obese, and extra tissue around your throat is more prone to collapse. You also might sleep with your mouth open, and your jaw shifts back, allowing the back of your tongue to press into the soft palate.
Other causes of sleep apnea include having a narrow throat, round head, or deviated septum, suffering from allergies, or having hypothyroidism. In rarer cases, sleep apnea can be caused by errors in brain signaling, causing “central sleep apnea.”
If you have sleep apnea, often the first hint that something is wrong is complaints about your snoring or snorting while you sleep, or worse, your periodic and startling lack of breathing. Less obvious symptoms of OSA include:
The constant interruptions of your rest by sleep apnea episodes can have long-lasting adverse effects on your health. Once you’ve gotten a diagnosis of sleep apnea, you can start to do something about it.
Your doctor may start with conservative treatment if you have relatively mild sleep apnea, or might order tests like a polysomnogram (PSG) or home sleep test (HST) to figure out how severe your apnea is if you’ve been newly diagnosed.
We often recommend an oral appliance to wear in your mouth at night that will position your jaw to keep your airway open. If that doesn’t work, we might prescribe a CPAP machine to create continuous positive airway pressure through a mask worn at night.
Need help to stop the snoring? You can schedule a consultation by calling the location closest to you, or request an appointment online.