Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common problem for both children and adults. In fact, an estimated 22 million Americans currently suffer from this condition. Unfortunately, most people aren’t even aware they have it.
The snoring and sleep disturbance that result can be uncomfortable and annoying, but did you know that obstructive apnea can lead to a variety of health complications, including heart disease?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is an especially dangerous form of this disease, and a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease. OSA involves the narrowing or collapse of the upper airway during sleep, which causes blood oxygen levels to drop.
In response to reduced oxygen levels, your body responds by sending out emergency hormonal signals. Hypertension (elevated blood pressure) is the first response your body will produce as a result. Over time, these excessive hormones will continue to degrade your heart and vascular system.
Left untreated, OSA will not resolve on its own. In fact, it will likely progress and worsen over time.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The most common symptom of OSA is snoring, often loudly and consistently through the night. You may stop breathing in your sleep as well. In fact, in extreme cases, apnea sufferers can stop breathing for a minute or more!
You may also notice that you’re excessively sleepy throughout the day, have headaches, or that you experience memory problems. Mood swings, depression and learning disabilities are other little-known complications of OSA.
Treatment of OSA
The key to successful treatment of obstructive apnea begins to with diagnosis.
A pulmonologist (link to their fellow practice, the Heart & Lung Institute??) will conduct a sleep study to determine the nature and extent of the problem. During this procedure, the doctor will monitor your heart and brain function and track your body’s oxygen levels throughout the night.
Common approaches to treatment involve dental appliances to maintain an open airway and positive airway pressure (PAP) devices to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen to the body. In some cases, surgery provides a simple and effective way to relieve OSA.
Once your OSA is under control, you’ll be amazed at how much energy you have and how much better your feel. Your family may also enjoy more restful sleep, free from the disturbance of nightly snoring.
Contact your doctor today to learn more about OSA, and reduce your chances of future health complications and risks related to sleep apnea.