There are many frequently asked questions when it comes to the sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. Here we look at a few of the most common ones.
What exactly is sleep apnea?
In as basic terms as possible sleep apnea is “the cessation of breathing during sleep.” Those who study sleep apnea break it down into three categories- central, obstructive and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (abbreviated to OSA) is the most widespread form while central sleep apnea is not terribly common. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the other two types but its treatment is much the same as OSA.
How do I know if I am suffering from sleep apnea?
Not everyone who suffers from sleep apnea is aware of it. Sometimes it takes the person you share a bed with to bring it to your attention. The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud, habitual snoring, periods throughout the night when your breathing stops for anywhere from a ten second period to a minute or even more, excessive daytime sleepiness, problems concentrating throughout the day and waking up in the morning feeling as if you had not slept at all.
What course of action do I take if I believe I have sleep apnea?
The best thing to do in this case is to schedule an appointment with your doctor ASAP. Sleep disorders are still relatively new in the medical world and not always easy to diagnose. If your doctor suspects that you have sleep apnea he or she will likely send you for a sleep study test known as a polysomnogram. This test can either be undertaken at a sleep clinic / laboratory or at home.
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If I am diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is it dangerous? Also what are the effects of OSA?
Yes obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous to your present and future health and in some rare cases, has proven to be life threatening. OSA has a strong connection to other serious health problems such as high blood pressure, a higher incidence of heart disease, stroke as well as arrhythmia (or irregular heartbeat). As well it is very debilitating to physical and mental health in regards to the constant loss of sleep night after night. Those who suffer from OSA often experience irritability, depression, a lack of concentration and memory, a depleted sex drive and less energy. As well those who suffer from Sleep apnea have a greater risk of being involved in car accidents, workplace accidents and having family/marital problems.
What treatments are available for sleep apnea?
There are only a few treatments to date that are believed to be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of sleep apnea. These are broken down into four groups- life style modifications (such as losing weight and quitting smoking), dental appliances, surgery (more than one type is available) and breathing assistance devices (such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), bi-level positive airway pressure, as well as “smart” and responsive airway pressure). Your doctor will help you in deciding which route for treatment is best for your individual situation.