Do I have sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which sleep is disrupted multiple times due to seconds-long periods in when a person stops breathing. This can occur either because of a mechanical blockage (“obstructive sleep apnea”) or an absence of a continuous drive to breathe (“central sleep apnea”). Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common type and may occur in up to 1 in 4 men and 1 in 10 women.
Snoring does not always indicate OSA, but patients note frequently that their bedmates tell them they snore, gasp or “choke” at night. This condition presents most often in people who are overweight and those over age 40.
OSA can cause many problems. Most noticeably, people tend to feel poorly rested after a full night of sleep. Often, patients will describe themselves as being tired “all the time,” having poor focus and feeling like they can easily nap during the day. Beyond feeling fatigued, OSA leads to higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. The good news is many of these things can be improved with a proper diagnosis and treatment!
To test for sleep apnea, a patient undergoes a medical evaluation and typically a “sleep study” (polysomnogram). This is an overnight test during which one’s breathing, heart rate and oxygen levels are monitored. The study is done in a room designed to feel like a hotel room to help a patient get his or her best night of sleep.
If someone is diagnosed with OSA, treatment can range from adjusting their position to wearing a special mask attached to pressurized air.
Sleep apnea treatment can make significant difference in the quality of life for both patients and their loved ones. Please contact your primary care provider if you have concerns about sleep apnea in yourself or a loved one.
About the Expert:
Dr. Laura Bowshier, Family Medicine
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