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Stealing Sleep

Sleep apnea can steal a good night's rest and can be life threatening. This condition affects up to 18 million Americans according to the American Association for Respiratory Care. It is a potentially serious condition that often goes undiagnosed. People who have this condition stop breathing for short periods of time repeatedly while they are asleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and result in poor sleep quality that causes you to feel exhausted the next day. Heavy snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of the three and occurs when throat muscles relax and block your airway. This causes breathing to stop momentarily and can lower the level of oxygen in your blood.
  • Central sleep apnea is caused by your brain sending improper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Heart disease is the most common cause of central sleep apnea, but a stroke can also cause the condition.
  • Complex sleep apnea occurs when you have a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The most common symptoms include:

  • Loud, irregular snoring, followed by brief quiet periods when breathing stops (more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat, dry mouth, cough
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath (more common in central sleep apnea)
  • Easily irritated, mood swings

Treatments

For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor might recommend some lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol before bedtime, or a change in sleeping position from your back to your side. If those remedies do not provide a solution then you may want to consider alternative options. The National Heart and Lung Institute suggests that some people suffering from sleep apnea may benefit from prescription mouthpieces that pull the jaw forward during sleep. This causes the airway to stay open. Another treatment option is the use of a breathing mask called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). With CPAP, the air pressure is somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air, and is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring. In extreme cases of sleep apnea, a person may have to undergo a surgical procedure aimed at reducing airflow obstructions during sleep. Unlike simple snoring, the risks of undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) include heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart disease. and decreased libido

Let the Drexel Sleep Center Help You

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. The Drexel Sleep Center provides comprehensive evaluations, sleep disorder treatments, advanced diagnostic testing, and personalized patient plans. Our board-certified specialists treat patients in our facility in Manayunk, which is designed to give each patient a high level of relaxation. For more information about the importance of sleep, or to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call 215.482.0899.

 



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