Sleep apnea is more common than we think and more than 30 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. People who suffer from this disease have recurrent incidents of throat closing down disabling them to suck air in lungs.
There is a muscle that holds the throat when we are awake and it relaxes when we sleep. But when the muscles relax too much and you try to breathe in, the throat gets closed completely not allowing any air to pass through it. This is called obstructive sleep apnea.
Breathing must cease for more than 10 seconds for it to be called apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea can last for upto two minutes causing drop in the oxygen level in the blood. When there is an episode of this disease, the apnea can only be terminated by waking up the victim. This will increase muscle activity of the tongue and throat and they enlarge the airway. This all goes absolutely unnoticed by the sufferer.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Most common sleep apnea symptoms include fatigue, tiredness, excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. The other symptoms also include difficulty in concentration, heartburn, memory lapses, rapid weight gain, dry mouth when you awake, intellectual deterioration, excessive perspiration, headaches in the morning, frequent urination, confusion and grogginess when you wake up.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be serious and if goes undiagnosed, it can cause heart attack, cardiac arrest or a stroke during sleep. In addition, the person suffering from it can become extremely sleep deprived which can cause some serious accidents. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can become worse ultimately causing disability or death.
Things to do
It is a sad fact that most of the healthcare professionals are not well informed about this disorder. It is hence a good idea to become as knowledgeable as you can about obstructive sleep apnea. If you suspect that you might be suffering from this disorder, it is a good idea to convert your suspicion into certainty.
You can ask for help either from your spouse or some other family member and they can videotape while you are going through one of the sleep apnea. You then need to show this tape to your physician who will refer you for diagnostic sleep study. This study can be done either at your home or in the sleep disorder center and you undergo all night sleep study.
The presence or absence of obstructive sleep apnea can be verified using this test and it will also indicate the severity of the problem. The functions that are monitored during the study are air flow, blood oxygen level, body position, snoring and respiratory effort. There is no pain when this study is conducted and is covered under insurance.
Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
CPAP(continuous positive airway pressure) is the most commonly prescribed treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. This machine uses a small nasal mask to deliver the air pressure. It can also be treated using surgery but its effectiveness depends on numerous factors. You need to make sure that the surgeon is qualified and has a good track record.