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Detecting Sleep Apnea

May 1st 2008

One of the most common of the sleep disorders is "sleep apnea," an interruption of breathing during sleep consisting of brief periods during the night when breathing stops, accompanied by loud snoring. People with sleep apnea do not get enough oxygen during sleep causing them to wake up briefly during the night to breathe. Usually there is no memory of these awakenings.

The most common form is "obstructive sleep apnea" usually caused by an obstruction in the throat that can be caused by several factors including excess weight, large tonsils, snoring, and alcohol consumption before sleep. It is a recurrent interruption in breathing that may cause awakenings that can disturb your sleep. In severe cases it may lead to dangerous sleepiness during the day.

Sleep apnea results from sleep-related muscle relaxation in the upper airway causing a decrease or blockage of air for brief periods. Undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea can be a life-threatening condition that may lead to heart attacks, strokes, impotence, high blood pressures or other conditions.

Just because you or your partner snores, doesn't mean they are suffering from sleep apnea. Primary snoring has several variations with one consistent thread. There is no apnea (cessation of breathing) and you wake up refreshed with no evidence of insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Diagnosing and treatment of sleep apnea takes understanding. A diagnosis of sleep apnea is usually done through a painless sleep test called polysomnography (poly-som-no-graphy) conducted in a sleep clinic such as Alto Sleep Clinic. These tests are usually covered by insurance.

Mild sleep apnea can be treated with behavioral changes such as sleeping on your side and losing weight. Moderate apnea is usually treated with a C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine that blows air into your nose and/or mouth through a mask keeping your airway unobstructed.