Do you snore so loudly that it annoys others? Are you constantly falling asleep at work or behind the wheel? Do you wake up frequently during the night? Do you feel you aren’t well rested even though you’ve slept for hours? Or feel short of b
Do you snore so loudly that it annoys others? Are you constantly falling asleep at work or behind the wheel? Do you wake up frequently during the night? Do you feel you aren’t well rested even though you’ve slept for hours? Or feel short of breath when you wake? If so, you may have a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that affects your breathing, called Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea (apnea = ‘without breathing’) is a condition where normal breathing is interrupted periodically, and in some cases frequently, throughout the course of sleep. One of the most significant results of these interruptions is that the oxygen levels fall. This activates your innate ‘fight or flight’ system and awakens you—essentially shocking you—in order to take a necessary breath. While it is crucial to maintaining normal oxygen levels, this repeated shock from the ‘fight or flight’ system also stresses the heart. People with sleep apnea snore and make snorting or gasping noises in between periods of non-breathing. They can be extremely tired during the day because they wake up multiple times at night—mostly without being aware that they’re waking up. They often don’t feel refreshed even after long periods of sleep. However, there’s more to sleep apnea than annoying snoring or sleepiness. Sleep apnea is a so-called silent killer. It considerably increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and sudden death. It can sometimes make high blood pressure very difficult to control. Therefore, these symptoms should not be taken lightly. Ask your doctor about your symptoms if they seem in any way similar to this. Sleep apnea is becoming more common in people ages 30-60. It’s seen in men twice as much as women. Overweight and obese people are at high risk for a form of sleep apnea. But people that are thin can also develop sleep apnea. High cholesterol and diabetes, as well as certain anatomic characteristics, are associated with sleep apnea. The good news is that sleep apnea can be treated in most instances with a kind of oxygen mask used during sleep that keeps the lungs open with gentle air pressure— CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). If you or someone you know snores and/or stops breathing during the night are never refreshed after sleep or have excessive sleepiness during the day, ask your doctor if sleep apnea could be the cause. Here’s to Mastering Your Health.
Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender Dave Montgomery, MD, PhD is Senior Fellow in Cardiology at Northwestern University and a sought after Seminar Presenter, Speaker and Health Coach. http://davemontgomerymd.com