What is Sleep Apnea?

Some people think sleep apnea is only snoring, but that’s a dangerous misunderstanding. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder. During sleep, the patient’s upper airway becomes blocked, usually by sagging tissues in the throat or the back of the tongue, and airflow ceases. When this happens the brain senses the lack of oxygen and it wakes the person to restart breathing. These interruptions can occur dozens of times every night. Often the person does not remember waking. 

As you would assume, these sleep disturbances play a role in the person’s health. These manifest not only by sleepiness and a lack of concentration during the day. They can also impact other areas of the body, even the heart.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Spring TX

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Most people don’t understand the difference between occasional snoring and sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when there is resistance to airflow when a person is sleeping. The resistance causes the noise.
When airway resistance increases to a complete blockage more than five times an hour, the patient has Sleep apnea. Dr. Cilento treats both snoring AND sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a complex problem with complex solutions. In general, a person obstructs at three levels: The nose and sinuses, the soft palate, and the tongue base.

The Varying Causes of Sleep Apnea

  • Throat and tongue muscles that are abnormally relaxed
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Aging
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Obesity
  • Chronic sinusitis and airway inflammation
  • Nasal congestion and blockage
  • Smoking
  • Family history

Are There Different Types of Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea, defined by the causes.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common form, occurring when muscles in the throat relax, blocking airflow. These muscles support all of the surrounding tissues such as the tonsils and the side walls of the throat. When the muscles relax, the airway narrows or closes. Your brain senses this inability to breath and briefly wakes you from sleep to reopen the airway. These lapses in sleep can be so brief you don’t even remember them. These actions can involve a snorting, choking, or gasping sound and can repeat the pattern up to 30 times per hour all night.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.Consequently, you make no effort to breathe for a short period of time. You then awaken with shortness of breath or have difficulty even falling asleep.

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) differs from OSA in that there aren’t pauses in breathing or decreases in breathing. And patients with UARS simply require greater effort in breathing to get past obstructions.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome

Another form of sleep apnea is Complex sleep apnea syndrome. This sleep apnea is categorized as a person having both OSA and CSA.


How Does Sleep Apnea Develop?

Several factors play a role in being more likely to develop sleep apnea. These are risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea:
  • Neck circumference — People with thicker necks often have narrower airways (men 17 inches and larger, women 15 inches and larger).
  • Obesity — Obese people have four times the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits around the upper airway can add to obstruction.
  • Narrowed airway — Some people simply have a naturally narrow throat, or have enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
  • Men — Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea.
  • Age — Sleep apnea is more common in older adults.
  • Family history — Sleep apnea runs in families.
  • Smoking — Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA.
  • Alcohol or sedatives — These substances relax the throat muscles.

Common Sleep Apnea Symptoms

  • Loud snoring (more prominent with obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Daytime sleepiness or lethargy
  • Awakening with shortness of breath (central sleep apnea)
  • Episodes of breathing cessation witnessed by another person
  • Waking up with a headache in the morning
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Attention problems
  • Impotence or Erectile dysfunction
  • Irritability

You’ll need to complete a sleep history. Someone who shares your bed or someone in your household can usually help with this. We may refer you to a sleep disorder center, if it looks like you’re a good candidate. They will monitor you overnight as you sleep. You may also use a home test. This is a simplified version that measures your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns while you sleep.

Can I Prevent or Stop Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is sometimes limited by these prevention strategies. In any case making an appointment and seeing a professional about your sleep apnea is always the best plan of action.

  • Treat Sinusitis and Allergies — Many people have ongoing allergy and chronic sinus issues that cause breathing difficulties and nasal obstruction. This may progress to snoring and even sleep apnea if left untreated.

  • Exercise — Moderate activity, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes a day can relieve some symptoms.

  • Lose weight — Even a slight weight loss can relieve constriction in your throat. Getting to your ideal, healthy weight may be all you need to do to open up your airway.

  • Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers — These all relax the muscles in the back of the throat, allowing the sagging that leads to sleep apnea.

  • Sleep on your side or abdomen, not your back — Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue and soft palate to rest against the back of your throat, blocking your airway. There are some commercial devices that vibrate when you roll onto your back in sleep.

  • Don’t smoke — Smokers are three times more likely to have OSA.

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Sleep Apnea Treatment in Spring, TX

Treatment for sleep apnea starts with lifestyle changes. These include losing weight, limiting alcohol consumption, or quitting smoking.

Sometimes it takes more than a life style change. Understaing why you have sleep apnea determines our next course of action. This could include breathing systems such as a CPAP.

Some patients have sleep apnea AND a nasal obstruction which could cause a CPAP to be inefficient. A CPAP can't do its job if your nose doesn't work correctly. Balloon Sinuplasty, and nasal procedures can help restore normal nasal breathing. Other options are UPPP or palatal surgeries, Inspire Therapy, or oral appliance therapy.

Severe cases may require surgery. In severe cases the patient is in danger of developing serious medical conditions. These include high blood pressure, heart problems and even early death.

What is CPAP?

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most popular treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. This is a breathing system that uses air pressure to keep the upper airway passages open. The patient wears a mask over his or her nose during sleep. The mask delivers air pressure that is somewhat greater than the air pressure in the bedroom. This difference in pressure keeps the airway passages open, preventing snoring and apnea.

What is Inspire Therapy?

Inspire Therapy is a new approach. Dr. Cilento implants a device that the patient turns on when he or she goes to bed. The device delivers a mild stimulation to key airway muscles to help keep them open while sleeping. The person doesn’t feel a thing, but the airway stays open, allowing uninterrupted sleep.
There are certain qualifications a patient must meet to be eligible for the Inspire Sleep Therapy. Dr. Cilento will discuss these with you.

Oral Appliance Therapy at Texas Sinus & Snoring

Oral appliance therapy uses what is akin to a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Worn only during sleep, the oral appliance supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway.

Sleep Apnea Surgery

As a premiere sinus and sleep surgeon in Houston, Dr. Cilento has a methodical approach to tackling even the toughest of snoring problems. He will perform a comprehensive physical exam and history at your first visit. We assess all patients for the presence of reversible causes of nasal obstruction. Even if a patient wishes to use CPAP, a working nasal airway is a must. Dr. Cilento offers many surgeries to help maximize nasal airflow:
  • Nasal Valve Reconstruction — The nasal valve stenosis is caused by narrowing of critical structures in the nose. Cartilage on each side of the nose may weaken and collapse on one or both sides when a person is breathing in. This is known as nasal valve collapse. Nasal Valve Reconstruction surgery corrects this problem and returns proper airflow.
  • Turbinoplasty- The turbinates are the radiators of the nose and are responsible for warming and moistening of the air we breathe. They also react to allergens, irritants and bacteria and viruses and swell to block the nose. Removal is not a good idea so we have several ways of shrinking the size of these structures permanently.
  • Septoplasty — The septum is the structure in the nose that separates the two nostrils. For some patients, their septum can become crooked or misaligned, making one nostril larger than the other. This can inhibit proper airway function. Septoplasty evens out both nostrils by repositioning the septum. This places both nostrils in the proper position and improves airflow.
  • Balloon Sinuplasty- The presence of Chronic sinusitis can cause severe and persistent nasal obstruction. For those who qualify, balloon sinuplasty may be required to help open blocked sinuses and nasal airflow outtracks.

Schedule You Sleep Apnea Consultation with Texas Sinus & Snoring

If you have any questions and concerns regarding our sleep apnea procedure with Dr. Ben Cliento in Spring, TX, you can schedule a consultation or call us at 346-413-9313

Severe Sleep Apnea Treatment

Once the nose is maximized, attention is turned to the area of the Palate and oropharynx. If a patient’s sleep apnea is moderate to severe and is impacting their quality of life adversely, Dr. Cilento offers several surgeries to improve the airflow in this area. Surgery is usually an option if other sleep apnea treatments have failed to improve the patient’s symptoms.

  • UPPP/Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty — This surgical procedure removes excess tissue in the throat, widening the airway. UPPP also seeks to improve the movement of the soft palate to help the airway remain open during sleep. Outcomes are improved if the patient still has their tonsils for removal with the palate trimming.
  • Snoreplasty — If a patient does not have sleep apnea but still has a considerable amount of snoring, it is possible to trim the palate and stiffen the palate enough to stop the noise.
  • Hyoid Suspension — The hyoid bone is located just above the adams apple and connects all the tongue muscles together. If we suture it to the adams apple below and stabilize it, the patients breathing is improved.
  • Tongue Base Coblation — sometimes the tongue base is stiffened and reduced in sized by locally applying energy to help shrink it.
  • Oral Appliance — Sometimes the answer to tongue base contributions to sleep apnea is simple. We will often discuss sleep appliances to help move the tongue base forward. These appliances can be custom made to help position the lower jaw forward, thus pulling the tongue out of the way.