What is Sleep Apnea?

By Saligrama Bhat, MD, FCAP, FCCP, Member AASM –

Sleep Apnea is a common disorder in which there are one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea afflicts almost 20 million American adults, both men and women. It is as common as asthma and affects almost 5% of the American population. It may occur at any age, but incidence increases with age. Obstructive sleep apnea is twice as common in men than in  men. It is more commonly associated with overweight people though it can be seen in people who are normal weight or even underweight. There is also a hereditary correlation with multiple siblings and parents having sleep apnea in the same family.

Sleep Apnea usually is a chronic condition that disrupts your sleep. Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine office visits. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain — and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen.

There are many reasons our body needs sleep. Sleep is our body’s way of rejuvenating. It is the period in which we lower the energy levels expelled each day, our muscles and soft tissue are repaired and revitalized, and our mind is able to process memories and things we have learned for the day. Although one day of sleep deprivation is not fatal, it will indeed cause alterations in mood, physical well being, and overall cognitive function. Increased periods of time without sleep will further these negative changes into hallucinations, poor mental clarity, and often provoke disease, or even death.

It is essential not to overlook or underestimate the importance of sleep. Plenty of nourishing sleep is one of the secrets of a good complexion as well as a healthy mind and body. The benefits of sleep are many, and the body needs seven to eight hours of sleep per day. Lesser amounts weaken the immune system and could lead to depression, heart disease , sleep disorders, hypertension, diabetes and stroke et cetera.

One of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea is loud and chronic (ongoing) snoring. The signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap, however this is very well defined during the overnight polysomnography or a sleep study.

The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:
• Excessive daytime sleepiness.
• Loud snoring often with episodes of choking and gasping, usually with obstructive sleep apnea.
• Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person.
• Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath.
• Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat.
• Morning headaches.
• Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia).
• Attention and concentration problems.
• Frequent urination at night.
• Depression and irritability.
• Difficult to control blood pressure elevations.
• Difficult to control heart irregularities such as atrial fibrillation.
• Sexual dysfunction.
• Work-related accidents including possible motor vehicle accidents.
• Poor performance in school, in children with sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea robs you of your precious sleep every night. To have a healthy and joyful life, you need to get enough sleep. You have the control to get the proper treatment for sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Methods
What is sleep apnea treatment and how can it help a person suffering from the sleep disorder?

Sleep apnea treatment involves a number of strategies, including weight management and overall physical fitness. It is highly recommended to avoid sleeping pills, alcohol and sedative medicines, as these can worsen sleep apnea symptoms. Sometimes sleeping semi-upright proves helpful. However, in most cases, additional sleep apnea treatment is required.

Turning to Sleep Centers
People experiencing sleep apnea symptoms are commonly referred to sleep centers around the country. A sleep center can identify and examine sleep apnea symptoms and determine if a person has this common and potentially devastating sleep disorder.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the standard of treatment used to treat patients with sleep apnea. A mask fitted over the nose, or over the nose and mouth, is pressurized to hold the airway open and allow the patient to sleep normally. Fortunately, newer and ever evolving technology has made the masks relatively comfortable to wear.

Upper Airway Surgery
Some patients may be candidates for surgery on the upper airway. Upper airway surgery usually removes the  surrounding soft tissue to enlarge the air passage.

Dental Devices
In other cases of mild sleep apnea, a dental device designed to move the lower jaw down and outwards slightly may be worn at night.

If properly treated, your sleep apnea should not prevent you from leading a normal life. Improved daytime energy and overall quality of life with improvement in blood pressure etc. are added benefit to the treatment of sleep apnea. Take control of your sleep apnea and seek for proper treatment. Sleep apnea is one condition that tends to steadily worsen the longer it’s left untreated. A visit to your doctor is essential to prevent your sleep apnea symptoms from ruining your nightly sleep. You must be consistent with your treatments in order to keep your sleep apnea under control. Eating healthier is a huge step in the right direction to managing your sleep apnea.

Make your health a priority in the New Year. Wishing you a Happy, Healthy, New Year!

Harbor Professional Center  |  3410 Tamiami Trail, Suite 2  |  Port Charlotte, FL 33952  |  941-629-8006

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