Don’t Let Sleep Apnea or Snoring Threaten Your Health
Bad things happen when you stop breathing! It is estimated that 1 in 9 adults in the United States suffers from some form of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by sporadically blocked airway. The most common symptoms are loud snoring and interruptions in breathing. Sleep breathing disorders have been linked to nocturnal tooth grinding, headaches, daytime fatigue, memory problems, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Snoring and sleep apnea should not be ignored!
Snoring is the First Stage of Sleep Apnea
Snoring is more than annoying; it’s a danger sign! Snoring is caused by the staccato-like blockage of the airway by the tongue. If you understand obstructive sleep apnea, you understand that it is caused by the tongue blocking the airway. Snoring is the first phase of obstructive sleep apnea, with the tongue blocking the airway for a few seconds at a time. Snores separated by 10 seconds or more often indicates a dangerous escalation of airway blockage. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 50% of people who snore loudly have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Not only does snoring interfere with the sleep of others, it can be a dangerous sign for the snorer!
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder caused by the tongue blocking the airway for 10 seconds or more at a time. When a person drifts into deep sleep, muscles relax. In susceptible individuals, the tongue can fall back and block the airway, stopping breathing.
When breathing stops for more than 10 seconds, oxygen levels of the blood drop sharply.
This has two bad effects:
- It can deprive oxygen to important and critically susceptible organs like the brain and the heart.
- It causes the brain to raise the body out of deep sleep to a lighter level of sleep in which movement of the tongue and the jaw can open the airway.
Both results may carry a significant risk.
What are the Risks of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
- Fatigue: The best thing that can happen to a person with OSA is that the brain continually pulls the person out of deep sleep to ensure they keep breathing. The result is a feeling of fatigue even though you ‘slept’ a normal amount of time.
- Diminished Cognitive Function: Several studies conclusively demonstrate that the abnormal sleep patterns caused by OSA result in diminished ability to retain information and learn. It seems that the brain stores information as you sleep much like a computer stores information on a hard drive. Diminished cognitive retention due to abnormal sleep is particularly true in children and senior citizens. Abnormal sleep can cause symptoms similar to learning disabilities or early Alzheimer’s.
- Higher Risk for Accidents Due to Daytime Drowsiness. Anyone who has had difficulty staying away while driving can understand the increased risk of accidents due to abnormal fatigue. Studies also show that people who sleep abnormally have slower reaction times.
- Higher Risk for Diabetes, Heart Attack, and Stroke: Many studies indicate that people diagnosed with OSA are statistically more likely to have adult onset diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
What Treatments are Available for OSA?
Everyone has heard of CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), the mask that is strapped on to deliver forced oxygen through the nose or mouth. But that’s not the only treatment. There is a very effective oral appliance that seems to be more acceptable to patients than a CPAP and is recognized as effective by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. There are also dietary and lifestyle changes that often improve results.
If You Suspect that You or a Loved One May Have OSA
- Seek help! Don’t ignore the problem!
- Arrange for a Level 4 Sleep Monitor home study to allow you to screen for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in your own home, in the bed you normally sleep. Level 4 monitors are now the accepted first line of diagnosis, because they are much less expensive than hospital based studies and avoid the errors introduced by sleeping in a strange environment. If you would like, you may call our office and arrange for a 2-Day Level 4 Sleep Study.
- Schedule a consultation with Dr. Deyton to explain the results of the study and the appropriate follow-up actions.