Snore a lot? Constantly wake up for a few seconds? Feel tired even after a night’s sleep? Those can be symptoms of the serious sleep disorder called “sleep apnea.”
Old model CPAP machine Old model CPAP machine

Many people fear finding out whether they have sleep apnea. They’re worried that sleep apnea treatment means they’ll need to install a noisy machine at their bedside and wear a Darth Vader like mask at night. Or, that they’ll be relegated to sleeping in another room, so that the machine doesn’t disturb their partner. They often don’t realize that there have been significant improvements to the devices used in the treatment of sleep apnea, over the past few years.

I learned about sleep apnea at a seminar conducted by Josi Sarne, B.Sc., of InspiAir, a supplier of the pressurized breathing machines that help control sleep apnea, and Beth Koran, OT Reg (Ont.) C.H., of metamorphosis, The Toronto Psychosomatic Clinic. Here’s what they told us:

There are two kinds of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) that we call “sleep apnea.”

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – your soft palate and tongue relax and cause a partial or complete blockage of your upper airway. The most common form of sleep apnea.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) – your brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles that control your breathing.
Counseling can help people get over their phobias about sleep apnea treatment.

The need for sleep apnea treatment

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious medical condition. Unfortunately, the person with apnea rarely is aware of it.

A person with sleep apnea may dismiss their partner’s concerns, but it’s often the partner who has to push for the issue to be investigated. A sleep study can identify sleep apnea. Even then, too many people still reject treatment. They don’t realize that it’s about more than just not getting a good night’s sleep – sleep apnea can be a serious health issue. Sleep apnea also is closely associated with many common afflictions of the elderly.

Forget old ideas about sleep apnea treatment

The gold standard for treatment is the CPAP pump – a machine that maintains consistent positive airway pressure to maintain the airflow through your throat. The technology is only around 30 years old, but there has been significant progress in the last few years in CPAP machine design, masks and the way patients are counselled.

Newer model CPAP machine for sleep apnea treatment

Most new CPAP machines are designed to be super quiet and unobtrusive – the sound of a running tap and washing your hands is almost six times as noisy!

Some are portable and weigh less than one pound. There is also a variety of nasal and face masks that provide improved comfort.

Some patients can wear a nasal mask, others may need a face mask that covers their nose and mouth. Masks come with different contours, different headbands and different kinds of sealing/padding to fit faces of many different sizes and shapes.

CPAPs and masks come in a wide range of performance, esthetics and cost. There are basic units, 80% covered by Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program, and fancier units that provide either greater comfort or capabilities that fit special needs.

Caring counselling not only helps the machinery work right for you, it helps overcome fears and maintain compliance

If you have sleep apnea you can fill your prescription for a CPAP machine through a responsible and caring supplier of assistive devices. They can help you find the machine and mask that’s right for you and help with follow up service and advice.

Symptoms of sleep apnea (from the Mayo Clicnic)

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Loud snoring, which is usually more prominent in obstructive sleep apnea
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, which more likely indicates central sleep apnea
  • Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Attention problems

Sleep apnea may be related to a condition you already have.

Hypertension – what’s the connection to sleep apnea?

As many as 83% of patients with hypertension have sleep apnea.

If you have hypertension and sleep issues, there could a connection to sleep apnea. Talk it over with your doctor.

Congestive heart failure – this one is close to home

About 76% of congestive heart failure patients have sleep-disordered breathing (SDB); most of it is Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

According to information provided by Josi Sarne, in just one month of treatment, a person with CHF using a CPAP device may experience improved heart rate, daytime blood pressure and left ventricular function. This hits home.

I have congestive heart failure and my left ventricle has about 25% of its function. I definitely want my wife to alert me if she starts seeing any signs that I may have sleeping issues, I’d then have a sleep study done.

Sleep apnea is a risk factor for stroke

The Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada, and that there is a strong link between sleep apnea high blood pressure and stroke.

In a 2004 study at Yale University’s Center for Sleep Medicine showed that, “…sleep apnea doubles the risk for the development of stroke and death, and severe sleep apnea more than triples the risk… this risk was independent of other risk factors, including high blood pressure.”

Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea

In a 2015 study at the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, scientists wrote that “Given the prevalence of Central Sleep Apnea and type 2 diabetes in older adults, presence of one condition should prompt the evaluation of the other.”

Driving and sleep apnea

People with moderate to severe sleep apnea have 15 times more chance of being in a traffic accident!

Sleep apnea also affects your love life

The Mayo Clinic says that people with sleep apnea may have less interest in sex. But what about their partner? Loud-snoring people with sleep apnea can deprive their partners of sleep too. Bye, bye, love life!

More energy, more enthusiasm and much less risk of certain diseases of the elderly

If you’re concerned that you aren’t getting a restful night’s sleep, and if you have any of the warning signs (see symptoms, above) for sleep apnea, don’t be afraid to get yourself checked out. Sleep apnea treatment can be very effective. After all, don’t you deserve a restful night’s sleep?

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