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GUIDE TO SLEEP APNEA

Nighttime Nuisance: A Look at Sleep Apnea


You are not alone. Millions of Americans snore or have trouble breathing in their sleep. Undiagnosed sleep apnea can lead to chronic sleepiness, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, memory issues and even Type 2 diabetes.


What exactly is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition consisting of abnormal breathing during sleep.


What are common symptoms of sleep apnea?


  • Snoring

  • Choking or gasping for air

  • Stop breathing or pause breathing in your sleep

  • High blood pressure

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue

  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep

  • Frequent headaches in the morning

  • Memory issues or forgetfulness


What factors increase risk for sleep apnea?


  • Male sex

  • Over the age of 50

  • On more than one blood pressure medication

  • Overweight

  • Large neck size

  • Loud snoring


How do we test for sleep apnea?


There are two types of sleep studies we order at this clinic: in lab sleep studies and at home sleep studies. Both have their unique benefits and we will determine which one is best for you. Both tests look at a variety of factors in helping us confirm whether you present with sleep apnea.


What happens if sleep apnea goes untreated?

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition. Here are some of the consequences of untreated sleep apnea:


  1. Increase risk of traffic accidents: Sleep apnea patients are 2.5 times more likely to get into a traffic accident. Not only is this a risk to yourself, but also others.

  2. Sleep apnea affects your bedmate’s sleep: Loud snoring is disruptive to your bedmate’s sleep.

  3. Increased risk of heart attack, stroke and of heart conditions: Struggling to breathe in your sleep puts a lot of stress on your heart which over time can take its toll on your health.

  4. High Blood Pressure: Sleep apnea is associated with the development of high blood pressure.

  5. Diabetes

  6. Daytime sleepiness

  7. Increase risk of memory issues or developing dementia

  8. Insomnia and Sleep Fragmentation: Sleep apnea can wake you up multiple times a night.

  9. Depression and Anxiety: Untreated sleep apnea can make mental health conditions worse.

  10. Trouble losing weight: Untreated sleep apnea can disregulate hormones that regulate appetite and hunger.


What do you need to know about sleep apnea?


The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. People with obstructive sleep apnea can stop breathing or struggle to breath several times an hour. In severe cases this can be more than 100 times in an hour. During these episodes the upper airway collapses preventing oxygen from reaching their lungs.

When this happens:


  • As breathing struggles or stops, oxygen levels drop

  • The sympathetic nervous system is activated

  • Heart rate and blood pressure rise

  • Blood vessels constrict

  • Stress is put on the heart and body

  • Sleep is disturbed


Why treat sleep apnea now?


There are numerous treatments for sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea can have numerous positive effects. In the short term people can feel more alert and less sleepy. Treating sleep apnea can eliminate snoring and can make depression better in some cases. There is also a decreased risk of traffic accidents. In the long term, treating sleep apnea improves heart health, and may stop or improve the development or progression of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.


Treatments:


  • CPAP Machine: The gold standard treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This machine provides positive pressure while you sleep. This pressure opens the airway and keeps it open while you sleep eliminating obstructive sleep apnes

  • Oral Appliance: Fitted by a dentist, a dental oral appliance for sleep apnea, gently pushes the jaw forward alleviating sleep apnea.

  • Surgery: For the right patient there are a variety of surgeries to treat sleep apnea.

  • Inspire Device: Similar to a pacemaker, this implanted device provides stimulation to the tongue while you sleep. This stimulation pushes the tongue forward opening up the airway and alleviating sleep apnea.


Learn more about sleep apnea information:

Mayo Clinic

Sleep Foundation

Medline Plus

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