Obstructive Sleep Apnea
More than 15 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea.
It is estimated that more than 15 million Americans, including many in Salt Lake City, Utah, have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) but currently an estimated 80-90% of moderate to severe OSA remain undiagnosed. More than half the people who have sleep apnea are overweight and most snore heavily. Adults (1 in 25 middle-aged men, 1 in 50 middle-aged women, and some children) are most likely to have sleep apnea.
Sleep disorders play a prominent role in perpetuating common neurological symptoms.
Symptoms closely tied to sleep disorders include:
- Snoring loudly and frequently.
- Feeling tired even after a full nights sleep.
- Choking or snorting during sleep.
- Falling asleep while driving or during periods of daytime inactivity
- Decreased size of nose, throat, or mouth airways. This can be caused by the natural shape of these structures or by medical conditions causing congestion in these regions, such as hay fever or other allergies.
- Memory problems
- Stop breathing for periods of time during sleep.
- Obesity with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more.
- An unexplained weight gain and/or difficulties losing weight.
- High blood pressure.
- Frequent night sweats
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Restless Leg Syndrome
If obstructive sleep apnea is left untreated, it can have a detrimental impact on health and well-being. These risks can include:
- High blood pressure related to the severity of OSA.
- Heart disease: Results show that the hearts of people with OSA are enlarged on one side, have thickened walls, and a reduced pump function. There is growing evidence supporting an association with ischemic heart disease, heart failure, cardiac sudden death, etc.
- Stroke: 70% of individuals with stroke have some form of sleep apnea.
- Brain damage from lack of oxygen in sleep, memory difficulty.
- High cholesterol level is also suspected to be related to untreated sleep apnea.
- Untreated OSA can increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents.
Obstructive sleep apnea is an under recognized risk factor for stroke. There is strong evidence for this modifiable risk factor. Every stroke survivor should be screened for sleep apnea. There is also a strong link between insomnia and sleep apnea. Individuals who have trouble staying asleep often rely on sedatives, which merely masks the problem. While the medication may work, these individuals will still not wake rested in the morning.
Sleep disorders also contribute to headaches as they are a form of sleep deprivation. There are lesser known variants of sleep apnea that contribute to headache, particularly in women and snoring may be mild or even absent. In this type of sleep apnea, oxygen levels do not drop and thus, the diagnosis is often missed. The sleep disorders can cause frequent wakings at night, frequent urination at night, night sweats, nonrestorative sleep, foggy feeling in the head on waking, increased severity of restless legs syndrome and difficulty with memory.
A home sleep test is not a good testing option for the lesser known variants of sleep apnea and for insomniacs. Consult with Dr. Maya Thomas for more information about how to test for and treat sleep apnea. She serves Salt Lake City, Sandy, Riverton and more from her Murray office.
For more information please visit www.sleepfoundation.org.