Sleep Apena: The Hidden Side of Snoring

 

snoring-coupleby Dr. Steven E. Davis

Tired of hearing your significant other complain about your snoring? Sometimes, loud snoring can be more than just a nuisance. It can also be a sign of a serious health problem called obstructive sleep apnea, which affects about one in every 25 men and 50 women.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea manifests when you stop breathing while asleep. It occurs when air can’t make it to your lungs because of an obstruction in your airway, usually at the back of the throat. Blockage in your nose, from problems like allergies or a deviated septum, can also impede airflow and contribute to the problem.

How do you know if you have sleep apnea?

One sure giveaway is when the person sleeping with you says they are worried because you appear to choke and stop breathing at night. Chances are that they are right. Another sign is that upon waking after a long night’s sleep, you still feel tired.

Is there a test to see if you have sleep apnea?

Yes. It’s called a sleep study. This is done at a sleep lab, a hotel or in your own home. A technician monitors your heart, breathing pattern and blood oxygenation level while you sleep. Many centers can create a video, so that you can see for yourself why your partner is concerned. A physician evaluates the data to ascertain if you have apnea. See an ear, nose and throat specialist, who can order a sleep study.

What is the best treatment?

The gold standard is something called CPAP. A small sleep mask connects, via a tube, to a small machine that provides continuous positive air pressure support to keep you steadily breathing all night long. For those who cannot tolerate the mask, there are several minimally invasive surgical options.

Why get treated?

Sleep apnea is associated with a variety of problems, including reduced sexual drive, depression, compromised performance at work, hypertension and heart problems. It is also associated with falling asleep while driving. When sleep apnea is adequately treated, you can sleep better, live better and in some cases, live longer.

Dr. Steven E. Davis is an ear, nose and throat specialist with a practice in Manhattan Beach, California.

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