People with untreated sleep apnea can stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. Without oxygen, the body goes into emergency mode – and side effects can cause serious health issues. Anne Redding, MD, neurologist and medical director for the Sleep Center at Bon Secours DePaul, answers some common questions about sleep apnea.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Symptoms include sleepiness, high blood pressure, challenges in controlling diabetes, low energy, reduced libido and fatigue. Most people with sleep apnea also snore. Sleep apnea develops gradually, so you may not notice these symptoms. If you exhibit these symptoms, consider making an appointment at the sleep lab or seeing your doctor about the issue.
How can I stop snoring?
Some people have surgery or use nasal strips to stop snoring. These can help you to stop snoring, but it won’t address the underlying sleep apnea, which, in most cases, takes place at the back of the throat.
What can help me determine whether I have sleep apnea?
You may find yourself awakening catching your breath or snoring. You’re also at risk if you have issues with your jaw, or your neck measures larger than 16 inches. However, the best indicator is if someone tells you that you are not breathing in your sleep.
Why is it bad for your overall health?
Lack of oxygen and frequent awakenings trigger adrenaline and other hormone adjustments in your body. When your body is in this state for eight hours, it affects you during waking hours by putting you at higher risk of other conditions, such as heart disease.
What happens when you’re diagnosed?
There are several treatment options, but usually the most effective option is to use a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, device while sleeping. It inflates the throat and prevents the collapse that causes you to waken slightly in order to breathe. Many CPAP users report feeling much better after the very first night of CPAP therapy.
Call 889-CARE (2273) for a physician referral or for more information about our sleep labs.