Millions of Americans have Obstructive Sleep Apnea(OSA), a sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing repeatedly while they are asleep.  Current statistics indicate that 25% of adult males and almost 10% of adult females have been diagnosed with the condition and there are many that remain undiagnosed.  The condition isn’t just for adults either; it also impacts children, 4% of whom have been diagnosed.  Diagnosis and proper treatment of this type of sleep apnea can relieve symptoms, restore quality of life, and in some cases, actually save the life of those who have it.

Sleep Apnea is caused by airway collapse during sleep that stops air from reaching the lungs.  Each occurrence is called an apnea and last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.  Over the course of a night, a person with sleep apnea can experience as many as 300 apneas.  The consequences of these periods without oxygen can be severe which is why diagnosis and treatment are so important.

For many with sleep apnea, the most noticeable symptom is daytime fatigue due to the repeated sleep disturbance caused by the apneas.  When long term sleep disruption is paired with periods of decreased oxygen, serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cardiac problems, and stroke can result.  People with sleep apnea may become depressed and are also at a higher risk for work-related and automobile accidents. 

While anyone can have sleep apnea, there are some risk factors that increase the risk of it developing.  If you are overweight, have a small jaw or recessed chin, smoke, or have several family members with the condition, you may be more likely to develop it.  People who snore and those who get a full night sleep but still feel tired in the morning should talk to their doctor or medical professional about testing for sleep apnea right away.

The use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is the most common treatment for sleep apnea.  The device works by providing a flow of air into the airway throughout the night to keep it from collapsing via a mask worn over the mouth and nose.  For some people with sleep apnea, using a CPAP machine allows them to experience a good night’s sleep for the first time.  Getting the sleep you need on a regular basis can be life altering.  People with sleep apnea have reported that treatment results in their waking up refreshed and ready to go and having a much higher energy level throughout the day.  Many don’t realize how bad things were prior to treatment because they had nothing to compare against.

The ultimate goal of treatment is the relief of symptoms and restoration of normal sleep patterns, but the benefits reach much farther.  The risk of developing serious medical conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure should not be ignored or disregarded.  If you are concerned that you or someone in your life displays symptoms of sleep apnea, don’t wait to pursue diagnosis.