Sleep Apnea: An Under-diagnosed Epidemic
Sleep apnea is a common condition in which a person’s breathing stops and starts during sleep. The repeated pause can be caused by a blocked airway or a problem with signals from the brain. An individual will stop breathing over and over throughout the night without being aware of the disruption. When the airway opens or the breathing signal is given, the person may take a deep breath, snort, or wake completely with a feeling of gasping or choking.
Untreated apnea can lead to health complications, such as depression, hypertension, strokes, and heart attacks. It can also result in fatigue and drowsiness, raising the risk of accidents while working or driving. Around 20 percent of adults have obstructive sleep apnea, and one in 15 suffer from moderate-to-severe symptoms.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Based on the severity and cause of apnea, treatments vary. The intent of all kinds of sleep therapy is to return sleep patterns to normal, resulting in the following:
- • Eliminating daytime drowsiness and fatigue
- • Preventing cardiovascular complications
- • Reducing symptoms of mental conditions
Lifestyle changes are necessary to successful treatment, including weight loss, side sleeping, and the elimination of alcohol and cigarettes. Other options for treatment include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, surgery, and the use of a mandibular repositioning device (MRD). While CPAP therapy is the lead remedy for apnea, surgery is sometimes done to remove enlarged tonsils or excess tissue in the airways. For people with mild-to-moderate apnea, a custom mouthpiece, or MRD, is sometimes used during sleep to enlarge the space behind the tongue, reducing snoring and breathing irregularities.
What is CPAP therapy?
CPAP therapy uses a motorized mask to keep the airway open with a gentle flow of positive air pressure. Although many people find the device uncomfortable and stop using it before getting positive results, there are ways to ease the adjustment to its use and make it more comfortable. Becoming familiar with the unit and using accessories like nasal pillows and comfort pads eliminate some of the discomfort, and so does focusing on positive results. Because it provides therapy, not a cure, the mask must be used every night. Otherwise, symptoms return.
Users of CPAP therapy can often see immediate results from its use. In addition to an improved quality of life, users often see a decrease in snoring. Blood pressure measurements are lower at night and during the day, and alertness increases during waking hours. Gradually, overall health improves, and the risk of related complications lessens.
What should I know about sleep apnea?
Researchers estimate that 22 million Americans have sleep apnea, and only 20 percent have been diagnosed. Although the disorder affects women, females are eight times less likely to be diagnosed than men. Experts also say that four percent of children in the United States have the disorder, and some are incorrectly diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Anyone with symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment improves health and general well-being.
Contact Vally Sleep Center today for more information. You can also visit Valley Sleep Therapy for sleep apnea supplies and information.