If you get drowsy during the day for no reason, wake up breathless or snore loudly in the middle of the night, you may be one of more than 12 million Americans who are affected by sleep apnea.
How do you define sleep apnea?
It is a condition where your breathing stops periodically, as many as 20-30 times per hour when you're sleeping.
How do I know if I might have sleep apnea?
If you notice one or more of the following, contact us to see if you might have sleep apnea:
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Loud snoring at night
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Extreme drowsiness throughout the day
What are the different types of sleep apnea?
There are three categories with the most common being obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It is due to a physical blockage, usually the collapsing of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when breathing stops because the muscles involved don't receive the proper signal from the brain. The third type is "mixed" or "complex" sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central.
What are the risk factors for sleep apnea?
- Use of sedatives or tranquilizers
- Family history
- Central sleep apnea - people with heart disorders, neuromuscular disorders, strokes, or brain tumors
- Obstructive sleep apnea - more common in males than females and in older adults (40+)
Is sleep apnea dangerous?
Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical problem and if left untreated it can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart failure and stroke. The ongoing state of fatigue caused by sleep apnea can lead to problems at work or school, as well as danger when driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep apnea can also cause complications with medication or surgery; sedation by anesthesia can be risky, as can lying flat in bed after an operation. If you know or suspect you suffer from sleep apnea, let your family doctor know before taking prescribed medication or having surgery.
What is the treatment?
Depending on the severity of each case and the type, treatment can be behavioral or an oral device.
What steps should I take if I suspect that someone in my family suffers from sleep apnea?
Contact us, and we will refer you to a sleep apnea specialist, who may recommend a sleep study to diagnose the extent of the problem.