Sleep apnea is disruption of sleep (to both the patient and their bed-partner) and is harmful to the body. Here are some nuts and bolts about it. . .
What are the symptoms?
- Frequent awakenings during sleep.
- Daytime sleepiness.
- Slower reaction time.
- Reduced quality of life.
Why does it happen? There is upper airway obstruction near the mouth or throat: at the tongue, soft palate or epiglottis. Factors that make this more common are conditions that narrow the upper airway like
- enlarged tonsils,
- enlarged tongue or
- bony abnormalities of the head/neck.
Other associated risk factors are
- increasing age,
- men (two times more common than women),
- family history of sleep apnea,
- smoking, and
- nighttime nasal congestion.
How is it diagnosed? Sleep study. You sleep at a sleep
lab with an oxygen saturation monitor on your finger, with a chest monitor to show chest rise, monitors on feet to show leg movements—nothing invasive, but lots of equipment. After a night’s sleep the patient goes home (or work) and the tests results are evaluated.
If sleep apnea is untreated, the patient may have poor quality of life, high blood pressure, possible heart disease, and increased chance of a motor vehicle accident.
Mainstay treatment are continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP–see picture below) , oral appliances, and weight loss (which may make the sleep apnea