For an estimated 9 to 24 percent of the U.S. population, sleep apnea saps them of strength and impacts their functioning on a daily basis. The chronic condition is a serious one: if left unmanaged, sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and death.
Here’s how sleep apnea occurs:
Normally, when people sleep, the muscles in their throat relax and breathing can become restricted. For sleep apnea sufferers, the restriction is more prevalent leading to a complete collapse of the airway. As oxygen levels decrease or breathing becomes obstructed, the body will wake itself up, allowing respiration to return to normal.
Sleep apnea suffers can wake up multiple times throughout the night, and sleep becomes completely disrupted, creating a cycle that eventually leads to sheer exhaustion.
Patients with sleep apnea will generally try a new body position, pillow, mattress or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to find some relief. After these traditional methods have been exhausted, some patients may resort to surgery.
And that’s where Jennifer Hsia, M.D., University of Minnesota Medical School assistant professor of Otolaryngology and University of Minnesota Physicians sleep surgeon comes in.