Sleep Apnea

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The Greek word "apnea" literally means "without breath." People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.[1]

Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts sleep three or more nights each week. The patient often moves out of deep sleep and into light sleep when his/her breathing pauses or becomes shallow. This results in poor sleep quality that leads to tiredness and exhaustion during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

The reason why it is important to know about Sleep Apnea is that it often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can't detect the condition during routine office visits. Most people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member and/or bed partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea. Yet, it is a potential killer. Sleep Apnea can lead to --

Sleep Apnea, according to July 2008 results from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, an 18-year observational study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, is associated with an increased risk of death. [2]


[edit] Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed; of the three, obstructive is the most common.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

[edit] Symptoms

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness (i.e., falling asleep easily and sometimes inappropriately). Others signs and symptoms of sleep apnea may include:

  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes
  • Urination at night
  • A dry throat upon awakening

In children, sleep apnea can cause hyperactivity, poor school performance, and aggressiveness. Children who have sleep apnea also may have unusual sleeping positions, bedwetting, and may breathe through their mouths instead of their noses during the day.

[edit] Who's at Risk?

Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Here are some common risk factors --

  • Some studies have shown that a family history of sleep apnea increases the risk of OSA two to four times.
  • Obesity is a risk factor, as is having a large neck. However, not all with sleep apnea are obese.
  • Sleep apnea is more likely to occur in men than in women.
  • Abnormalities of the structure of the upper airway contribute to sleep apnea.
  • Sleep apnea may be more common among African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Mexicans.
  • Smoking and alcohol use increase the risk of sleep apnea.

[edit] How it is Diagnosed

Doctors diagnose sleep apnea based on your medical and family histories, a physical exam, and results from sleep studies to measure how much and how well you sleep.

[edit] Treatment

There are a variety of treatments for sleep apnea. The most appropriate treatment depends on an individual�s medical history and the severity of the disorder.

  • Treatment regimens included lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol, oral appliances, and surgery.
  • Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. The CPAP machine pushes air through the airway at a pressure high enough to keep the airway open during sleep.

[edit] Did You Know?

  • Some insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for the diagnosis and/or treatment of sleep disorders and some do not cover durable medical equipment for sleep apnea! So consider this when you buy a new policy or are thinking of changing the old one.
  • Sleep Apnea leaves people feeling sleepy and low on energy throughout the day.
  • Although the typical sleep apnea patent is overweight, male, and over the age of forty, sleep apnea affects both males and females of all ages and of ideal weight.

[edit] Source

  1. [1]
  2. [2]

[edit] References

  • About Sleep Apnea
  • Sleep Apnea and its Symptoms
  • Science Daily