After a long day of back-to-back meetings, conference calls and replying to emails, you head home. At home, you make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, read them a bedtime story and tuck them in. Now that the kids are fast asleep, you can finally sit on your comfy couch and catch up on your favorite TV show. It doesn’t take more than two minutes after you get comfortable before you start snoring!
A day like that can make anybody sleep like a baby. Our body can only take so much before it needs to rest. What is most frustrating about the scenario described above; for you, this is every day.
Although this may be a case of fatigue, many people live like this. You get your seven to eight hours of sleep but you are still tired. Every time you go to sleep, you snore through the night. What you may not realize is that throughout these snoring episodes (episodes your partner is well acquainted with) your body is not receiving enough oxygen. Throughout the night your breathing stops for short periods of time.
This is Sleep Apnea.
In this article we discuss what Sleep Apnea is in more detail as well as the treatment options we have available at Warner Family Practice.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
We must start off and say that Sleep Apnea is a serious and life threatening condition. Sleep Apnea is defined as a condition where your airway temporarily collapses during sleep, causing breathing to repeatedly stop and start. Most patients who suffer from OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) will experience low levels of oxygen in the blood, high blood pressure and a decrease in quality of life due to headaches and drowsiness.
In many cases sleep apnea goes without being treated because you are not aware it is happening. You are, after all, asleep.
How Do You Know If You Have Sleep Apnea?
Some signs of sleep apnea include loud snoring, dry mouth, morning headaches and shortness of breath. The best way to determine if you have sleep apnea is by getting screened.
At Warner Family Practice we encourage you to have an annual comprehensive physical where we ask you a series of questions pertaining to your health. During this screening process you will be asked about your sleeping patterns; based on your responses we can determine if you are a candidate for having a sleep study.
If you take daytime naps, you snore throughout the night, you constantly feel tired (even though you had 7 to 8 hours of sleep), or have a high BMI, then you may have sleep apnea. When you meet these criteria, a sleep study will be conducted.
What Is A Sleep Study?
In order to determine if you have sleep apnea, a sleep study test is conducted, starting with a questionnaire. In this questionnaire, we ask a series of questions related to your medical history. Based on your responses in this beginning section, the second section of the test will be determined. On a scale of 1 to 3, you will rank the following:
- How fast do you doze off while watching TV?
- How fast do you doze off as a passenger in a vehicle?
- Do you fall asleep in your vehicle while waiting at a red light?
- Do you fall asleep in public?
This is just a sample of the questions your provider will ask; your responses will help determine if you have sleep apnea.
What Happens If I Have Sleep Apnea?
When you have sleep apnea, it means your oxygen level dropped below 90% which can be dangerous. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, most commonly referred to as a CPAP, is warranted.
A CPAP machine will record your sleep. The data obtained lets us know your oxygen saturation, respiratory airflow and respiratory effort, as well as your heart rate throughout the night.
All it takes is one night of recording your sleep to get the full results. You will wear a band across your head that has a sensor which tracks your sleep. All you need to do is turn it on and adjust the hose and strap to your preference. Everything else is setup for you. Once the machine is on, it will talk you through the calibration before you fall asleep.
How Comfortable Is It?
As you are reading this, you may be asking yourself, “how comfortable is this machine?” We can confidently say that most patients don’t have an issue. The only concern you may have is if you are not a back sleeper. Using the CPAP machine, you will need to sleep on your back and on your side. The machine will need to record 4 to 5 hours in both positions.
We recommend you fall asleep on your back to allow a higher chance of getting the full data. After you fall asleep, you don’t have much control over your sleep position.
After all the testing is done and the results are analyzed, we will be able to show you how frequently you stop breathing, how long those episodes last and what your oxygen level drops to. You will then be diagnosed with mild, moderate, severe or no sleep apnea.
Is There A Cure For Sleep Apnea?
In many cases, sleep apnea is due to weight. To cure sleep apnea, it comes down to living a healthy lifestyle. In some cases, all you need to change is the way you sleep (i.e. sleeping on your side rather than your back). For minor cases, you can treat it with an oral device.
For more serious cases, a CPAP machine is recommended. The CPAP machine will provide you with the oxygen you need.
It has been established that sufferers of sleep apnea have a 60% increased risk of heart failure, 200% higher likelihood of having a stroke, 300% increased chance of resistant hypertension and a dramatic 400% increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Taken together, cardiovascular mortality is nearly twice as high for patients suffering from untreated moderate or severe sleep apnea.
As you can see, sleep apnea is more serious than you may realize and, fortunately, treatable.
Talk To Your Provider If You Think You Have Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is something that is not usually monitored like diabetes. You may not even be aware you have it. The best way to know if you have it is through physical screening.
The average person thinks these symptoms are just how it is. But the reality is that it’s a huge risk factor. Getting screened is crucial, and if you have any symptoms of sleep apnea, you should communicate with your provider.
If you have any questions regarding sleep apnea, feel free to schedule a visit by calling us at 480.831.8457.
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