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Do You Suffer From Sleep Apnea

August 29th, 2009

Do You Suffer from Sleep Apnea

How many times have you woken up in the morning feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep? Do you find it difficult to remember the last time you woke up actually feeling refreshed?

Sleep Apnea (or Sleep Apnoea), is a relatively common problem. The broken sleep pattern that comes with sleep apnea usually leads to increased tiredness and decreased awareness in waking hours, morning headaches or a dry throat when you wake up.

Less obvious but more serious medical problems that can be caused or aggravated by Sleep Apnea include high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases as well as weight gain, impotency, memory lapses, depression, irritable mood swings and personality changes.

If you can relate to these symptoms then read on to find out more about sleep apnea, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment alternatives.

What is Sleep Apnea?

The medical condition called “Sleep Apnea” is a condition where sufferers repeatedly stop breathing for extended periods of time while sleeping. The clinical definition of Sleep Apnea is a cessation of breath that lasts for at least 10 seconds while sleeping.

Sleep Apnea can be a life threatening condition with the frequent drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during an Apnea and the associated reduced sleep quality triggering the release of stress hormones. These hormones raise your heart rate and increase your risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases and associated problems.

How is Sleep Apnea Usually Diagnosed?

There is no blood or other post event test for determining sleep apnea, and as such it is normally first diagnosed as a result of comments or complaints from your sleeping partners or family who have become concerned about the gaps in your breathing while sleeping or the extent of your snoring.

If your partner is worried about your breathing or snoring while you are sleeping or you continually feel tired during the day, it is possible that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, so what should you do next?

What Should You Do?

The risks associated with failure to act if you are a sufferer are too great to ignore and as such sleep apnea should not be taken lightly. If you suspect that you could have the condition you should seek advice from a professionally qualified Sleep Specialist.

Prior to an appointment it usually helps for you and your sleep partner to keep a sleep diary for at least a few days or so recording details of your sleeping habits during the night, any gaps in breathing, choking or gasping events, your snoring and how loud it is, and how refreshed or otherwise that you feel in the morning when you wake up.

You should also note any other irregularities that may be noticed such as restlessness or leg movements during sleeping and periods during the day where you may seem to fall asleep or feel really tired.

Recording a video of yourself while sleeping may also be useful to help your Sleep Specialist with their initial diagnosis.

Sleep Study

If your Sleep Specialist suspects that you may be suffering from Sleep Apnea they will probably arrange for you to have a sleep study done.

A sleep study is usually completed at a Sleep Centre (also sometimes called a sleep clinic or sleep lab) equipped with specialised equipment to record a wide range of details while you sleep.

Details such as your breathing, blood oxygen levels, brain activity, leg movements and much more are recorded using monitors that have wires attached to various parts of your body.

The sleep centre will also use video cameras to monitor and record you throughout the sleep study.

All the information that is recorded during the study will be collated and provided to your Sleep Specialist who will discuss the details with you at a later appointment.

There are other conditions and sleep disorders that have symptoms that are similar to Sleep Apnea and one of the reasons for the Sleep Study is to determine if these are present or contributing to your condition.

These disorders include “Restless Legs Syndrome” where you tend to kick and move your legs uncontrollably, “Narcolepsy” which is sudden and unexpected sleep events during normal awake activities as well as possibly an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism).

After the Sleep Study.

In the follow up after your sleep study, your specialist, after reviewing your sleep study results, will decide on a course of action to recommend for you.

This will depend on the severity of your condition as well as the treatment options that your Specialist determines are appropriate for your particular circumstances.

The goals of any sleep apnea treatment approach is to restore regular breathing during sleep and relieve symptoms such as loud snoring and daytime sleepiness.

This may include lifestyle changes to manage contributing factors, use of a Continuous Positive Air Pressure device (CPAP), oral devices to be worn while sleeping or even surgery.

The Reality of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is normally something that develops over a period of time and as such is usually not noticed as a problem, with most people putting the symptoms down to just being part of “growing older”; this is not necessarily the case.

Sleep Apnea can be treated or managed once diagnosed. The risks to your health associated with failing to act on sleep apnea are significant and Sleep Apnea should not be taken lightly.

I was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea a few years ago and now sleep using a CPAP machine and have found it to make major improvement to how I now feel in the morning and during the day. as an added bonus, from her perspective anyway, my wife now gets to sleep at night rather than being kept awake by my snoring.

Discuss with your partner what your sleep patterns are like, do they tell you that you seem to have difficulty with breathing or even seem to stop breathing for periods of time (from 10 seconds to a minute or more) during the night while sleeping?

Is your snoring excessive? Does you partner have to sleep in a different room for them to be able to get some sleep due to your snoring or restless movements while you sleep?

Are you continually tired during the day regardless of how many hours sleep you try to get each night?

If you have any of the symptoms or are told by your partner that you do, then you may be suffering from Sleep Apnea, take action now, get yourself assessed, it could save a life, yours.

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