What Is Obstuctive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS)?
Simply put, your airway collapses due to muscle relaxation during sleep, which causes airway obstruction. A brain arousal restores your airway. If this happens a few times per night, it is not a problem. However, patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea have many repetitive airway obstructions causing sleep fragmentation and deprivation. This leads to sleep fragmentation and deprivation and a host of long-term cardiovascular complications.
Sleep Apnea has both short- and long-term health consequences. Always feeling tired during daytime hours, or a partner’s complaint of loud snoring, is typically what drives patients to seek a diagnosis and treatment. However, if left untreated, Sleep Apnea has significant and serious long-term health consequences:
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Daytime high blood pressure
- Heart failure
Just like a patient with high blood pressure takes a daily preventative prescription to keep his or her blood pressure within a healthy range, patients who suffer from Sleep Apnea need to be treated in order to prevent the disease’s damaging side-effects. We all want to live long, healthy lives – and treating your Sleep Apnea is one way to ensure that you are doing all that you can to ensure you are around to meet your grand and even great-grandchildren.
Sleep is not a static process. In fact, our brain cycles through two main stages of sleep about every 90 minutes; REM and Non-REM. Generally, we spend about three-fourths of our night in NREM and the rest in REM sleep. REM sleep is a very active stage of sleep with irregular breathing and complete muscle paralysis, and it is also the stage of sleep where dreaming occurs. Any sleep disorder or medication that disrupts this natural progression of sleep stages throughout the night can lead to a sense of daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and cause cognitive impairments such as memory loss or moodiness.
Patient history and exam findings can certainly raise suspicion of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, but a definitive diagnosis requires an overnight Sleep Study or Polysomnography. Monitored sleep studies performed in a sleep lab are the gold standard for making an accurate diagnosis. EKG-type leads are used to measure ten physiologic parameters to give our patients an accurate and definitive diagnosis.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome
Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea suffer from symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation due to poor sleep quality. Sleep fragmentation from recurrent brain arousals needed to relieve upper airway obstruction account for the key symptoms of Sleep Apnea:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Awakening unrefreshed
- Restless sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness / Irritability
- Morning headaches
- Loud snoring
- Awakening gasping or choking for air
- Bed partner or caregiver has mentioned you stop breathing while sleeping
- Morning dry mouth
- Sweating while sleeping
- Problems concentrating
- Feeling worse after a nap
- Neck circumference - 17 inches for a man or 16 inches for a woman
- Being overweight
Sleep Apnea has a very slow onset over several years time. Because patients often attribute feelings of daytime fatigue, tiredness, memory decline, and irritability to the aging process or other medical conditions such as low thyroid or anemia, Sleep Apnea is not usually the first-line diagnosis. In fact, many patients deal with the symptoms of Sleep Apnea for five to ten years before the true culprit is uncovered. Because patients are asleep when Sleep Apnea occurs, they simply do not know it is happening to them.
If you snore and have daytime sleepiness or risk factors for heart attack or stroke (such as high blood pressure or diabetes), you should strongly consider talking to your family doctor about being evaluated by Dr. Ludwick and/or participating in a Sleep Study. You can also Request an appointment online.
Our practice is focused on finding the most appropriate and effective therapy for each patient based on his or her sleep apnea severity, airway anatomy, overall health status, and our patient’s wishes.
We have many options for treating sleep apnea
If you’d like your questions answered and to find out if you have sleep apnea, please give us a call now and schedule an appointment: 281-556-1102.