By Jeffrey P. Barasch, M.D., FACCP, FAASM
The Center for Sleep Medicine
April 18 is Sleep Apnea Awareness Day
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening breathing disorder that affects an estimated 20 million Americans, most of whom remain undiagnosed.
“Apnea” is a Greek word meaning “without breath.” Those with sleep apnea have pauses in their breathing during sleep, caused by a temporary collapse of the airway. Each episode of apnea, which can last from 10 seconds to over a minute, leads to reduced oxygen levels in the blood. This can occur dozens to hundreds of times during each night of sleep, and can lead to disruptions in sleep and frequent fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure.
Untreated sleep apnea can seriously impair health and is linked to strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks, which are otherwise unexplained. Additionally, sleep apnea can lead to arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and weight gain. Untreated sleep apnea can also lead to impaired job performance and motor vehicle accidents, as well as more frequent medical complications following surgery or anesthesia.
More common in men than in women, sleep apnea is characterized by the following signs and symptoms:
• Loud snoring
• Periods of non-breathing during sleep, which may be accompanied by snorting or gasping sounds
• Restless sleep or repetitive arousals, often unnoticed, during sleep
• Feeling sleepy or falling asleep at inappropriate times during the day, such as while driving, working or reading.
• Depression, irritability and sexual dysfunction
• Memory loss.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, ask your doctor if you could benefit from a sleep evaluation.
For more information please call the Center for Sleep Medicine at 201-251-3487.