What is Sleep Apnea?

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Do you snore, wake up often at night, and feel excessively drowsy during the day?

You might have sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that plays a role in hypertension, diabetes and mental illness.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is very common.  2-4% of people in North America suffer from some form.

To test if you have it, take the Epworth sleepiness scale.  A high score indicates some sort of sleeping problem.

Sleep apnea, logically enough, means that you suffer apnea during your sleep.  Apnea is defined as a cessation of breathing for more than 10 seconds.

Full blown sleep apnea means that you stop breathing many times per hour, which disrupts the quality of your sleep.  Hypoapnea is a milder form, defined as “only” a 50% reduction in airflow.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form and is caused by the airway around the mouth becoming blocked because of various physical changes associated with sleep.

Central sleep apnea, the less common form, is caused by your body not sending the right signals to the lungs.

Both forms stop your breathing.  Cut off from oxygen, the body briefly wakes up to restore proper breathing, which interrupts sleep.  The problems this causes are serious.

CPAP is the standard of care

Continous positive airway pressure machines are the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.  That said, they’re bulky and half of patients stop using them within a year.  But they provide significant increase in breathing and help treat the symptoms caused by the apnea.

What are Oral Appliances?

Oral appliances (OA) are very similar to mouth guards.  You put them in your mouth, and they hopefully help you with breathing during the night.

Patients say OA are more convenient than CPAP, but at the same time provide less symptom relief.  The medical data shows that indeed, OA do provide some relief but CPAP is superior at restoring normal function.

What are surgical options?

See here.

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Link to Mental Disorders:

OSA is highly associated with mental disorders.  One study of OSA patients found that 21% had depression, 16.7% anxiety disorders, and 11.9% PTSD.

Treatment of the psychological issues can, interestingly enough, sometimes reduce the OSA, but the data on this is limited.

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Pharmaceutical analyst who loves blogging about health and medical issues. Has written more than 150 articles and a book on attention deficit disorder. Correctly predicted delayed approval of Bydureon, approval of Provenge by FDA, and the non-approval of Acthar on June 11.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I am suffering with OSA symptoms, but it has to be confirmed. I have typical significance like all the day sleepy, drowsy and whenever time permits during office hours while group discussion or in the official presentation or in the lecturing time unknowingly and invarioubly I am going in a deep sleep with high snoring which disturbs others and then will be woked up. I am loosing my confident level slowly. what should i do? pls advice me.

  2. I am sam 47 years old man yesterday when i was in clince seeing doctor forear proplem the doctor say i have apnea problem and need for surgery , i am now feel uncomfort coz i have sonring problem when i sleep and it may make me die when i sleep.
    please advise me , i think surgurey in this age is not easy and what the dignosises for apnea
    many thanks

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