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Living with Sleep Apnea – part 1

September 18th, 2010

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Courtesy of http://www.healthstand.net – Patients talk about diagnosis and living with Sleep Apnea.

Sleep apnea is best described as a sleep disorder characterised by having one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram, or a “sleep study”.

There are three distinct forms of sleep apnea: central, obstructive, and complex (i.e., a combination of central and obstructive) constituting 0.4%, 84% and 15% of cases respectively. Breathing is interrupted by the lack of respiratory effort in central sleep apnea; in obstructive sleep apnea, breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort. In complex (or “mixed”) sleep apnea, there is a transition from central to obstructive features during the events themselves.

Regardless of type, the individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). Symptoms may be present for years (or even decades) without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance.

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