There are millions of Americans suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder where the sufferer stops breathing repeatedly during sleep.  Although 25% of adult males and nearly 10% of adult females have already been diagnosed with the condition, experts believe there are many others who remain undiagnosed.  Sleep apnea can be a devastating sleep disorder with long ranging health consequences which means getting people diagnosed and treated is critical.  Although sleep apnea can be dangerous and even life-threatening if left untreated, symptoms can be alleviated and quality of life can be restored with proper treatment and lifestyle changes.


What Causes Sleep Apnea?

An apnea occurs when the collapse of the person’s airway or some other obstruction prevents air from flowing into the lungs.  In essence, the person stops breathing each time an apnea takes place and their body and brain are starved of oxygen.  Each apnea can last from just a few seconds to several minutes; over the course of a single night as many as 300 apneas can occur.  With this understanding, it is easy to see why sleep apnea can have dire consequences both in the short and long term.


How Can You Tell You Have Sleep Apnea?

One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness.  If you struggle to stay awake while driving, during meetings, or at other times when there is an expectation that you will remain awake, you may be struggling with excessive daytime sleepiness.  People with sleep apnea experience excessive daytime sleepiness because each apnea disrupts their sleep.  It is almost as if they are being repeatedly woken up all night long even though apneas don’t usually awaken those who suffer from this disorder.  Another common symptom of sleep apnea is snoring.  If you snore or find that you get a full night sleep but still feel excessively tired during the day, you should talk to your doctor.


Why Do You Need to Get Help for Sleep Apnea?

If you are struggling to stay awake when you are behind the wheel, the reason to get help is obvious.  But there are other consequences of sleep apnea that are much less obvious and much more likely to cause life-long problems.  People with sleep apnea are at a higher risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems like heart disease, and stroke.  Additionally, sleep apnea can be life-threatening even in the short term as an apnea that lasts too long can result in severe oxygen deprivation and even death.

If you suspect you have sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder, the best way to get the help you need is to make an appointment with your one of our sleep certified physicians.  Keep track of your sleep habits and any problems you have in the weeks leading up to your appointment as this information can help your doctor with a diagnosis or a referral.  Your doctor can rule out other medical conditions that could be impacting your sleep and potentially refer you for a sleep study at Valley Sleep Center,  if necessary for diagnosis and treatment.


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