We all know the value of a good night’s sleep. Most of us also know how it feels when we are deprived of quality sleep. Unfortunately for some, feeling sleep deprived is a way of life. A very common and dangerous sleep disorder that can disrupt healthy rest is sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that results in pauses in breathing many times during the night. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which an individual’s airway collapses during sleep. Slight airway blockage may result in loud snoring. Complete blockage can actually cause brief episodes of suffocation, dangerously low oxygen levels and finally a gasp or snort as the patient wakes slightly and resumes normal breathing. As a result of this fitful sleep, these individuals never reach the deepest and most regenerative levels of rest and feel tired and lethargic during the day.
The fatigue experienced by those with sleep apnea is troublesome enough, making daily tasks difficult and tasks requiring attentiveness like driving downright dangerous. But there are some other very dangerous side effects to sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can actually result in damage to the delicate lining of blood vessels, increasing the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
It has been estimated that over 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. It is that common! Most of these individuals have no idea that they have a problem. The reason is that these episodes of snoring and breathlessness occur while the patient is sleeping. Unless a parent, spouse or sleep partner recognizes the signs of sleep apnea it can go on untreated for years.
To assess your risk, ask yourself the following questions:
- are you likely to doze off during reading, watching TV, while stopped in traffic or as a passenger in a motor vehicle?
- have you been made aware that you snore or gasp at night?
- have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure?
- have you suffered a stroke or heart disease?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions you owe it to yourself to get evaluated for sleep apnea. Speak with your physician or come in and talk to Dr. Pappas as soon as possible. The good news is that with proper diagnosis, the effects of sleep apnea can be rapidly reversed. Treatment doesn’t involve drugs or surgery and the benefits of treatment are realized quickly, sometimes in the first night following treatment.