Sleep Apnea and You
Sleep Apnea and You
Sleep apnea is a dangerous and surprisingly common disorder that many people suffer from. In fact, studies show approximately 18 million Americans are afflicted, and an estimated 50 million are undiagnosed. Which is why it is important to have Sleep Apnea explained in plain English.
The word "apnea" is actually a Greek word meaning "without breath." A person with sleep apnea is not getting enough oxygen due to a sporadic blockage in their airway. These sporadic or intermittent blockages can last ten seconds or more and can occur various times throughout the night, and sometimes several times in an hour. Often, these episodes happen without the afflicted even knowing, and at other times he wakes choking and gasping for air. This lack of oxygen can put this person at risk for serious health conditions such as weight gain, high blood pressure, a stroke, heart attack, and even death.
Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night gasping or choking for air? Has your partner told you that you stop breathing at night? Or maybe you've witnessed these things in your partner and wondered if they were suffering from sleep apnea. There's good news. There's help for the afflicted. Sleep apnea can be managed and can even be cured in certain situations.
First, let's look at the two types of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic is, "the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax." Central sleep apnea occurs "when your brain doesn't send proper signals to muscles that control breath."
Some factors that may put you at risk for sleep apnea:
- Being overweight
- Large neck circumference
- Older Age
- Use of alcohol or sedatives
- Family history
Some signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Loud snoring that disrupts another
- Trouble concentrating during the day
- Pauses in your breath while sleeping
- Waking up chocking and gasping for air
"In the last week I've purchased some SleepPhones®. I LOVE THEM. I recommend them if you want to listen to anything in bed without worrying about earphones or headphones staying in/on all night. I have been trying to use binaural beat tracks played from my iPod to make my sleep cycle better. I put on the SleepPhones, then my CPAP mask, and listen all night." - Bacher, IN
I'm Worried That I Might Have Sleep Apnea
If any of these risk factors, signs and/or symptoms sound familiar, the first thing to do is make an appointment with your family doctor. He or she will then determine if a sleep specialist is needed. From there, you will probably be given a nocturnal polysomnography test, which is a fancy way of saying they will monitor your blood oxygen level, your breath, and the function of your major organs such as your heart and lungs while you sleep.
Once this test is complete the sleep specialist will determine if you do indeed have sleep apnea. If the answer is yes, there are many types of treatments the doctor may suggest— including making some lifestyle changes such as losing weight, stopping smoking and/or drinking. Some people who have lost the weight have even cured themselves of the sleep apnea.
Other treatments may include the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which requires you to wear a mask that offers a constant flow of air to keep your airway open. Oral appliances are another option for some. These are made by dentists and when you wear the appliance, it holds your jaw forward, thereby keeping your airway open. Another treatment may be surgery if it is determined you have a deviated septum in the nose that needs to be corrected or a polyp that needs to be removed. Occasionally a tonsillectomy can relieve symptoms.
How to Cope After You Are Diagnosed
Being aware that you have sleep apnea puts you in a better position to curb off the unfortunate consequences— like heart attack, stroke, or death. Treatment can help you enjoy more energy, normal concentration levels, better motivation, less anxiety, and more focus— all things that can help increase the quality of your life.
Remember, this also affects the quality of life for the ones you love and live with, so to help your bed partner or roommate get relief from Second-Hand Snoring too.