Sleep Apnea is a common but seemingly ignored condition in the western world. Lagging it seems not far behind Diabetes Type 2 as a medical condition and often with a similar profile of sufferers. In fact between 3-7% of middle aged men and around 2.5% of women of that age have sleep apnea.
So what actually is sleep apnea?
Simply put it is abnormal breathing during sleep. With obstructive sleep apnea (the most common kind) there is physical obstacle impeding breathing during sleep. In many cases this is due to obesity. The net result is, of course, a bad night’s sleep and the person with sleep apnea is unable to get the rest she or he needs.
The symptoms can include
b) Fatigue due to poor sleep. For more information on fatigue please have a look at our previous blog http://patienttalk.org/?p=239.
c) Poor concentration during the day due to tiredness and possible cognitive dysfunction.
d) Altered emotional states are common, in particular, moodiness.
e) From long term sleep apnea depression seems to be a likely outcome.
If any of these apply to you it is important that you discuss these symptoms with a healthcare professional.
A problem is that the person with undiagnosed sleep apnea does not realise that they have sleep apnea because they are asleep when the apneas take place.
But the good news is that there are treatments. These include:-
- Medications which encourage improved respiration such as acetazolamide.
- For people with mild to moderate sleep apnea dentists can produce a mouthpiece which opens the bite slightly thus increasing the airflow. This is called a mandibular advancement splint.
- For more severe sleep apnea a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device is used. This pumps air into the patient’s nose and mouth increasing air to the lungs and promoting easier sleep.
- In some rare cases surgery is used when other strategies to cure sleep apnea have failed.
As part of this blog we would be very interested to hear your views and experiences of sleep apnea. In particular it would be great if you could consider the following questions:-
1) Have you ever been diagnosed with sleep apnea?
2) What were the symptoms of your sleep apnea?
3) What tests were you given to make the diagnosis?
4) What treatments for sleep apnea were you given? How successful were these treatments?
If you could use the comments box below to contribute any of your thoughts that would be great.
You might be interested to know that in the UK the condition is spelt sleep apnoea? Divided by language as always.