Sleep Apnea – The Not-So Silent Killer

Sleep apnea, which affects 18 million Americans, is a sleep disorder that can cause people to stop breathing while asleep. According to TheDailyHerald, sleep experts agree that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a potentially life-threatening disease which involves episodes of complete or partial airway obstruction during sleep, is dangerously on the rise.

It is being urged that people with symptoms of OSA see a doctor immediately and talk about sleep apnea.

Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, stated, “Research shows that the number of sleep apnea sufferers continues to increase, the disease afflicts at least 25 million American adults and most of them remain untreated, increasing their risk of cardiac disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.”

He further added, “Fortunately, many of the damaging effects of sleep apnea can be stopped, and even reversed, through diagnosis and treatment by a board-certified sleep specialist.”

Warning signs of sleep apnea include loud and frequent snoring, high blood pressure, choking or gasping during sleep, obesity and fatigue or daytime sleepiness.

According to Morgenthaler, “A common misconception is that sleep apnea only affects older, overweight men. This widely-held assumption is wrong: anyone can have sleep apnea, regardless of gender, age or body type, even if you’re not overweight.”

The issue with sleep apnea is that your body does not get enough oxygen and is overburdened with too much carbon dioxide – and this can lead to health problems such as liver function impairment, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and even death from a lack of oxygen.

Newburyportnews reports that treatment options for sleep apnea should include keeping a journal of the times that the symptoms mentioned above are experienced – especially the number of times a person wakes up having to start their breathing and the general length of time between breaths. As a common rule of thumb, 10 or more seconds between breaths is considered to be an apnea. If you sleep next to someone, then that person may be able to better record the disturbances. The severity of apnea is often categorized as mild (5-15 events per hour), moderate (15-30 per hour) and severe (anything over 30 per hour).

An inexpensive device called a pulse oximeter (a pulse and oxygen meter) can also be used. All that is required is to clip the device onto a finger, and it will measure the percentage of your blood that is loaded with oxygen. Acceptable ranges for people without lung problems is 95 to 99 percent.