Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder in which those affected actually stop breathing for a few seconds throughout the night. Commonly told they snore or gasp for air, those with sleep apnea usually wake up fatigued, with a morning headache, have mood swings/feel depressed, memory difficulties, or feel exhausted throughout the day from the poor sleep quality and lack of oxygen. It’s thought that nearly 20 million Americans are affected however 80 to 90 percent are undiagnosed and untreated properly with a sleep study.
The risk for having sleep apnea rises with obesity, large neck circumference (16 inches in women, 17 inches in men), age, alcohol consumption and smoking.
In general, sleep apnea greatly increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias (irregular heart beat) and diabetes. Those with diabetes or borderline diabetes have up to three times the risk for obstructive apnea. There is a 30 percent higher risk of heart attack as well.
The April 8 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine showed that sleep apnea more than doubles the risk of stroke in men. Five thousand four hundred middle aged men with no history of stroke took part of in a sleep heart health study. Researchers found that even mild sleep apnea had a greater risk of stroke and that risk increased as the severity of apnea increased.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea or someone close to you has it, talk with your healthcare provider about having a sleep study done. This overnight test could save your life. Also called a Polysonogram, this test requires you to stay overnight at a sleep center so your nighttime patterns can be monitored. They will note your brain activity, eye movement, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, heart rate and rhythm, breathing rate and rhythm, body movements, airflow through your mouth and nose, and chest movements.
Having sleep apnea corrected can make a huge impact in your life. Imagine waking up with energy, no headaches, no sleepiness, and in a good mood. When you get enough sleep and enough oxygen (hello!), your whole body is happy. Don’t suffer another night!