The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.

ThinkstockPhotos-149405368Being overweight, over 40, or having a history of sleep apnea in your family are all factors that can increase your risk of developing this condition. Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women. Other health factors that can lead to sleep apnea include: reflux, GERD, sinus issues, allergies, or a nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:

• High blood pressure
• Stroke
• Heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and heart attack
• Diabetes

Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, restless sleep, frequently waking up while you are sleeping (sometimes with a choking sensation), and waking up with a sore throat. Those who suffer from sleep apnea also feel tired and lack energy while they are awake, experience mood changes, have lapses in concentration, and are forgetful. These waking symptoms can result in decreased productivity at work or school and can lead to potentially dangerous situations, especially while driving.

If sleep apnea is suspected, your doctor may recommend a sleep apnea study called a polysomnogram, which is a test administered by a qualified sleep specialist in a designated sleep center. While at the sleep center, you are assigned a private room where special equipment is used to monitor you. This equipment transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. Special technicians determine if you have sleep apnea. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, you may be asked to do further sleep testing in order to determine the best treatment option.

The most common form of treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This is a treatment in which a mask is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. The mask is connected to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into the nose. This air flow helps keep the airways open so that breathing is regular. Another treatment option is the utilization of dental devices designed to help keep the airway open. Some might benefit from surgery if their sleep apnea is caused by a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, or a small lower jaw with an overbite.

There are things that people with sleep apnea can do to improve their condition including losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills, and quit smoking. Other things that can potentially help are changing sleep positions to improve breathing and avoid sleeping on your back.

If you think you have sleep apnea, speak with your doctor about a sleep apnea test. Jamaica Hospital recently opened a state-of-the-art sleep center for those in need. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 718-206-5916.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.