By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Do you have daytime sleepiness? Wake up frequently at night? Snore? Have morning headaches?
These could be signs of a disorder called sleep apnea. While there are groups of people who are more prone to sleep apnea, it can occur in anyone.
Sleep apnea can be a serious disorder in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. This can occur in some people hundreds of times per night. This can lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain and other parts of the body and in time result in medical conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, chronic headaches and stroke.
Here are some common symptoms:
- Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
- Loud snoring
- Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
- Daytime sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
- Feeling sleepy while driving
- Morning headaches
- Restless sleep
- Forgetfulness, mood changes and decreased libido
- Recurrent awakenings or insomnia
- Not feeling refreshed after proper hours of sleep
- Silent pauses in breathing
The risk factors are:
- Being male (males are diagnosed with sleep apnea more often; recent studies show that women’s night symptoms are less noticeable and are often not diagnosed as quickly)
- Being overweight
- Over 40 years old
- Large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
- Large tonsils or large tongue
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Gastrointestinal reflux
- Nasal issues because of deviated septum, allergies or chronic sinus problems
The symptoms and risks factors vary in every individual. If you are having a few of these symptoms or have a concern, do not hesitate to discuss this with your health care provider.
Sleep apnea is a diagnosed by a sleep study that can be ordered by your health care provider via a referral to a sleep center.
Treatment for sleep apnea varies. You and your health care provider can decide together which best fits your condition and lifestyle.
A few treatments are:
- CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is a mask that is worn at night to keep the airways open to assure regular breathing
- Dental devices that can be designed by your dentist to keep the airway open during sleep
- Surgery to correct problems such as enlarged tonsils, nasal problems and facial or throat problems that contribute to obstruction
Lifestyle changes can help with mild causes of sleep apnea:
- Lose weight
- Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills
- Stop smoking
- Avoid sleeping on your back