As if heart disease, diabetes and cancer are not bad enough, do we really have to worry about going to sleep each night? If you think you have sleep apnea, you likely do. Sleep apnea is caused by complete or partial airway obstruction. Despite the effort to breathe, its characterized by repetitive episodes of short or paused breathing during sleep and can cause a reduction in blood oxygen saturation. These apneas can last 10 to 40 seconds each. This can happen hundreds of times each night and interferes with the ability to enter into the deepest stage in the REM sleep cycle that is required for the physically restorative effects of sleep. Common signs and symptoms for sleep apnea are having day time fatigue, waking up and not feeling rested, snoring loudly. Feeling irritable, depressed or anxious.
There are a few things that make people at risk for sleep apnea. The most common is being overweight. Having a large neck circumference, a narrow airway, being male, being older and snoring loudly. Also use of alcohol, tranquilizers, using pain killers such as opiates or narcotics and smoking can also be other significant risk factors for developing sleep apnea. Unfortunately this disorder is one of the most misdiagnosed by doctors, and can result in serious health complications. High blood pressure or heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, complications from surgeries or medications are just some of the health complications.
It can also be fatal.
This fact hit home this past March when my 38 year old brother-in-law died in his sleep from sleep apnea. He left behind his young wife, Brooke, and two little girls ages 3 and 7. A successful business owner, loving husband and father, he died in the prime of his life. He had some of the risk factors like being overweight and enjoying his beers on Friday night. Brooke had often said he snores like a freight train, but had been snoring for many years. He never got a chance to be diagnosed and was found dead in the spare room (because he kept Brooke up at night snoring) one beautiful spring morning this past March by his youngest daughter, 3 year old Brackey. It seems such a senseless passing especially since there are many options a person with sleep apnea has for this condition.
The first thing you should do if you have even one of these symptoms, is have a sleep study done. Contact our office and we will set up a sleep study with Florida Hospital. Our own sleep apnea expert Dr. Matt Scarpitti will evaluate you and refer you as necessary. Treatment for sleep apnea is achieved by using a CPAP machine. Its called a continuous positive air pressure machine and hooks to a mask you wear on your face that provides you with oxygen even during apneic moments. We also make a customized mouth guards for patients who cant tolerate the CPAP machine. In hind sight, I should have talked more about this to him. We may have been able to save his life. If I can educate our patients about this potential life saving information, I will feel as if his death was not in vain.
Don’t ignore these symptoms! Get it checked out!