Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects approximately 18 million Americans and has the potential for serious and even fatal complications. Ignoring sleep apnea can make you vulnerable to major illnesses, liability issues and operational problems.
What is Sleep Apnea? (return to top) |
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that can be serious. It is also called sleep disordered breathing. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops or gets very shallow. Each pause in breathing typically lasts 10 to 20 seconds or more. These pauses can occur 20 to 30 times or more an hour.
The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea. That means you are unable to get enough air through your mouth and nose into your lungs. When that happens, the amount of oxygen in your blood may drop. Normal breaths resume with a snort or choking sound. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
When your sleep is interrupted throughout the night, you can be drowsy during the day. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for car crashes, work-related accidents and other medical problems. If you have it, it is important to get treatment.
(National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea? (return to top) |
Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Several types of sleep apnea exist, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep.
The most noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring, although not everyone who has obstructive sleep apnea snores. Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, although it most commonly affects older adults. It's also especially common in people who are overweight. Obstructive sleep apnea treatment may involve using a device to keep your airway open or undergoing a procedure to remove tissue from your nose, mouth or throat.
What are symptoms of Sleep Apnea? (return to top) |
The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that you may notice include:
• Excessive daytime sleepiness, which is falling asleep when you normally should not, such as while you are eating, talking, or driving.
• Waking with an unrefreshed feeling after sleep, having problems with memory and concentration, feeling tired, and experiencing personality changes.
• Morning or night headaches. About half of all people with sleep apnea report headaches.
• Heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth at night or sore throat.
• Swelling of the legs if you are obese.
• Getting up during the night to urinate (nocturia).
• Sweating and chest pain while you are sleeping.
Symptoms of sleep apnea that others may notice include:
• Episodes of not breathing (apnea), which may occur as few as 5 times an hour (mild apnea) to more than 50 times an hour (severe apnea). How many episodes you have determines how severe your sleep apnea is.
• Loud snoring. Almost all people who have sleep apnea snore, but not all people who snore have sleep apnea.
• Restless tossing and turning during sleep.
• Nighttime choking or gasping spells. Older adults may normally have periods when they stop breathing during sleep, making it hard to know whether they have sleep apnea. Short lapses in breathing during sleep usually do not cause a large drop in the blood oxygen levels.
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, although it most commonly affects middle-aged and older adults and people who are overweight.>
What are complications of Sleep Apnea? (return to top) |
Complications of Obstructive sleep apnea are considered serious medical conditions and may include:
Cardiovascular problems - Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during obstructive sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea develop high blood pressure (hypertension), which raises the risk of heart failure and stroke. The more severe the obstructive sleep apnea, the greater the risk of high blood pressure. People with obstructive sleep apnea are much more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms such as atrial fibrillation. If there's underlying heart disease, these repeated multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) could lead to sudden death from a cardiac event.
Daytime fatigue - The repeated awakenings associated with obstructive sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. People with obstructive sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. They may have difficulty concentrating and find themselves falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. Children and young people with obstructive sleep apnea may do poorly in school, have reduced mental development or have behavior problems. Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea can improve these symptoms, restoring alertness and improving quality of life.
Complications with medications and surgery - Obstructive sleep apnea also is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you may be more likely to experience complications after major surgery because you're prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on your back. Before you have surgery, tell your doctor if you have obstructive sleep apnea. Undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea is especially risky in this situation.
Eye problems - Some research has found a connection between obstructive sleep apnea and certain eye conditions, such as glaucoma and optic nerve swelling (papilledema). Successful treatment of the sleep disorder usually resolves the eye condition, as well.
Sleep-deprived partners - Loud snoring can keep those around you from getting good rest and eventually disrupt your relationships. It's not uncommon for a partner to choose to sleep in another room. Many bed partners of people who snore are sleep deprived as well.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings or feelings of depression, and a need to urinate frequently at night (nocturia).
What are risk factors of Sleep Apnea? (return to top) |
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, certain factors put you at increased risk, including:
Being overweight - More than half of those with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has obstructive sleep apnea is overweight and vice versa. Thin people can develop the disorder, too.
Having a large neck -The size of your neck may indicate whether you have an increased risk. A thick neck may narrow the airway and may be an indication of excess weight. A neck circumference greater than 17 inches (43 centimeters) for men and 15 inches (38 centimeters) for women is associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
Having high blood pressure (hypertension) - Obstructive sleep apnea is relatively common in people with hypertension. Having a narrowed airway. You may inherit a naturally narrow throat. Or your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.
Having chronic nasal congestion - Obstructive sleep apnea occurs twice as often in those who have consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause. This may be due to narrowed airways.
Having diabetes - Obstructive sleep apnea is three times more common in people who have diabetes. Being male. In general, men are twice as likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
Being black, Hispanic or Pacific Islander - Among people under age 35, obstructive sleep apnea is more common in blacks, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders. Being older. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs two to three times more often in adults older than 65.
Being postmenopausal - A woman's risk appears to increase after menopause.
Having a family history of sleep apnea. If you have family members with obstructive sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.
Using alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These substances relax the muscles in your throat.
Smoking. Smokers are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
How can you find out if you have sleep apnea? (return to top) |
Safety First Sleep Solutions offers a self diagnostic screening test on this website or you can call and speak with one of our trained technicians to see about taking a more in-depth sleep apnea test to verify if or how sleep apnea is affecting you. Our in-home screening methodology provides testing in the convenience of your own home. You do not have to go to an independent sleep lab or be confined to wires and electrodes to be monitored in an unnatural sleep environment. Our in-home screening allows you to take the sleep study naturally and conveniently in your own home.
Oximetry Testing. This screening method involves using a small machine that monitors and records your blood oxygen level while you're asleep. A simple sleeve fits painlessly over one of your fingers to collect the information overnight at home. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, the results of this test will often show drops in your blood oxygen level during apneas and subsequent rises with awakenings. If the results are abnormal, your doctor may have you undergo polysomnography to confirm the diagnosis. Oximetry doesn't detect all cases of obstructive sleep apnea, so your doctor may still recommend a polysomnogram even if the oximetry results are normal.
Portable cardiorespiratory testing. Under certain circumstances, your doctor may provide you with at-home tests to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. These tests usually involve oximetry, measurement of airflow and measurement of breathing patterns.
What should you do if you have Sleep Apnea? (return to top) |
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you may benefit from a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your nose while you sleep. If your doctor prescribes this treatment, Safety First Sleep Solutions has the equipment and 24/7 customer service to monitor your equipment and treatment.
The most common type is called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP (pronounced SEE-pap). With this treatment, the pressure of the air breathed is continuous and somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air, which is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open. This prevents obstructive apnea and snoring.
There are also bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) appliances, which deliver a preset amount of pressure when you breathe in and a different amount of pressure when you breathe out. CPAP is more commonly used because it's been well studied for obstructive sleep apnea.
Whatever treatment is prescribed, call or have your physician call Safety First Sleep Solutions first!
What services does Safety First Sleep Solutions provide? (return to top) |
Safety First Sleep solutions is a leading home testing and sleep therapy solution provider. Our support team of trained technicians are available 24/7. Our board certified sleep apnea physicians are available to provide quick turnaround screening and testing results. Some of our services include:
Having Sleep Apnea can put you at risk for other health conditions. We have listed some of the major risks here:
What is Snoring? (return to top) |
Snoring is the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound is due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. In some cases the sound may be soft, but in other cases, it can be loud and unpleasant. Loud and persistent snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea.
What is Diabetes? (return to top) |
Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This high blood sugar produces the classical symptoms of frequent urination, increased thirst and increased hunger. Having sleep apnea can also bring on symptoms of Diabetes.
What is Chronic Nasal Congestion? (return to top) |
Nasal congestion is the blockage of the nasal passages usually due to membranes lining the nose becoming swollen from inflamed blood vessels. It is also known as nasal blockage, nasal obstruction, blocked nose, stuffy nose, or stuffed up nose.
Chronic nasal congestion that occurs is actually a symptom of chronic sinusitis. Chronic sinusitis treatment can be accomplished by first understanding the underlying cause of the condition. Significant congestion may interfere with sleep, cause snoring, and can be associated with sleep apnea.
What is Cardiovascular Disease? (return to top) |
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease are the class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels - arteries and veins. While the term technically refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system, it is usually used to refer to those related to atherosclerosis or arterial disease. These conditions usually have similar causes, mechanisms, and treatments. By the time that heart problems are detected, the underlying cause (atherosclerosis) is usually quite advanced, having progressed for decades. There is therefore increased emphasis on preventing atherosclerosis by modifying risk factors, such as healthy eating, exercise and avoidance of smoking. Having sleep apnea can increase your chances of having cardiovascular disease.
What is Glaucoma? (return to top) |
Glaucoma is an eye disorder in which the optic nerve suffers damage, permanently damaging vision in the affected eye(s) and progressing to complete blindness if untreated. It is often, but not always, associated with increased pressure of the fluid in the eye. The term 'ocular hypertension' is used for cases having constantly raised intraocular pressure (IOP) without any associated optic nerve damage. Having sleep apnea can increase your chances of having glaucoma.
What is High Blood Pressure - Hypertension? (return to top) |
Hypertension (HTN) or high blood pressure is a cardiac chronic medical condition in which the systemic arterial blood pressure is elevated. Hypertension is classified as either primary (essential) hypertension or secondary hypertension; About 90–95% of cases are categorized as "primary hypertension," which means high blood pressure with no obvious medical cause.The remaining 5–10% of cases (Secondary hypertension) are caused by other conditions that affect the kidneys, arteries, heart or endocrine system. Having sleep apnea can put you at risk for hypertension.
What is Depression? (return to top) |
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being. It may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, irritability, or restlessness.
Depressed people may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, or suffer cognitive impairments (e.g., difficulty concentrating, remembering details, making decisions). They may contemplate or attempt suicide. Their weight may change dramatically. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, change in sleep patterns (e.g., waking in the middle of the night or early in the morning and being unable to fall asleep again), fatigue, loss of energy, and aches, pains or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may be present.
It is important, if you suspect that you may be suffering from depression and/or are contemplating suicide or have suicidal thoughts to immediately seek medical attention.
What is a Stroke? (return to top) |
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is the rapidly developing loss of brain function(s) due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia (lack of blood flow) caused by blockage (thrombosis, arterial embolism), or a hemorrhage (leakage of blood). As a result, the affected area of the brain is unable to function, which might result in an inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech, or an inability to see one side of the visual field. A stroke is a medical emergency and can cause permanent neurological damage, complications, and death. Risk factors for stroke include old age, hypertension (high blood pressure), previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor of stroke.
Here are the early signs of a stroke. If you think you or someone near you are having these symptoms, call 911 immediately as time is of the essence for early correction:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
You can also have a person perform the FACT TEST: