Sleep Related Topics

Sleep and Wellness
Sleep Apnea
Snoring Is Not Funny
Not Enough Sleep
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
What Is Parasomnia?
Sleep and Children
Sleep Hygiene
Sleep Study Procedure (PSG)
CPAP Titration
Actual Sleep Study

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is usually referred to episodes of complete cessation of the airflow during our sleep or if the airflow decreases in its volume and is labeled as hypopnea.  Unfortunately, most of the sleep apneas are obstructive in nature that means that there is some form of impedance or blockage for easy flow of the air through our upper airway system, which includes nose and the throat region to our lungs.  This kind of problem usually is called obstructive sleep apnea.

There is also another type of sleep apnea, which is labeled as central sleep apnea and usually implies a form of dysfunction in the brain which regulates the sleep apparatus.  During Central Sleep Apnea, there is a cessation of airflow and lack of any effort by chest and abdomen for flowing of the air from our airways to our lungs.

What is obstructive sleep apnea:  Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder, it affects millions of people including male, female, as well as children.  This apnea is more common in certain ratios such as African-Americans and Southeast Asians.  Unfortunately, sleep apnea is commonly undiagnosed and untreated by healthcare providers.  During obstructive apnea, the flow of the air or breathing pauses for at least 10 seconds or longer and is abnormal.  These events are added up for a total number, then calculated as an index (number of events per hour of sleep).  They are labeled as apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) or respiratory distress index (RDI).

By definition up to five events an hour is considered to be normal.  If our breathing gets disrupted between 5 to 15 events per hour is labeled as mild, 15 to 30 is labeled as moderate, and more than 30 is considered severe in nature.

Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea over some period of time affects the patient’s multiple organs and the first target is the cardiac system.  This contributes or increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease in the patients who have this form of sleep disorder.  Sleep apnea is well recognized as a risk factor for other disorders such as stroke.  Some studies have indicated that 50% of the patients who had a stroke have been suffering from sleep apnea.
When the patient develops sleep apnea especially in moderate-to-severe forms, there is a decline in oxygen at night that causes secondary changes in the patient’s cardiovascular system, as well as changes which occur as a combative effect of chronic drop in oxygen and this could result in a variety of disorders and can exacerbate or contribute or cause heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.  This disorder is also well-known to affect other systems including our body’s immune system, sexual hormones, and stress hormones.

Simple signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are excessive daytime sleepiness and tiredness, snoring at night, frequent awakening at night, and frequent urination at night.  The patients with this sleep apnea also suffer from headaches either early morning headaches or apnea-induced headaches in the middle of the night.

Since the patient’s sleep structure is disrupted because of sleep apnea, the patient will suffer from daytime symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness, memory dysfunction, lack of concentration, change in the mood and behavior.  These changes can be associated with other systemic changes in cardiovascular system and changes in the hormones can at times be life-threatening to the patient.

It is very important for patients who suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease and patients who have symptoms of daytime fatigue and tiredness to be evaluated for possibility of sleep apnea.  In most of the cases, the treatment of this disorder is simple and very cost-effective and has a major affect on patients’ health and well-being as well as improvement of the quality of life and job performance.

Sleep apnea in children can present itself in different fashion, and unlike adults in which patients will suffer from fatigue and tiredness, children with the sleep apnea usually become hyperactive during the day and some studies have indicated that at least 30% of the children with hyperactivity disorder and poor performance in the school may actually suffer from sleep apnea.
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