Sleep is extremely important to good health. After a night’s sleep you should wake up feeling rested and refreshed. For 25% of Canadians this is not the case. If you wake up feeling tired and remain tired throughout the day you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. The most common sleep disorder is Sleep Apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
During sleep, the muscles that control the tongue and soft palate hold the airway open. If these muscles relax too much the airway narrows and can block the passage of air. As you breathe in, the soft and floppy part of the throat vibrates causing snoring. As you enter deep sleep, these tissues can fully block the airway and breathing stops. Regular occurrence of these sleep disruptions increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and can exasperate conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
If sleep disturbances occur regularly many of your body systems will suffer.
The most common signs symptoms are:
- Daytime tiredness
- Pauses in breathing
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Depression or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Large neck circumference
- Excessive Weight BMI >28
- Family History
If left untreated you could be at risk for:
- High Blood Pressure or congestive heart failure
- 8 to 18 times more likely to have a heart attack and or stroke
- Decreased quality of life
- 3 fold increased risk for car accidents
- 2.5 times more likely to die in your sleep
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Concentration or attention problems
- Sleep deprived bed partners
- Complications with medications and Surgery
Sleep Apnea can be diagnosed in several ways. The standard for Sleep Apnea is an overnight visit to a provincial sleep lab where you would undergo testing. BC has 11 sleep labs located in major centers. Independent Respiratory Services offers home testing in communities across BC. Home testing is an effective screening program that measures up to 7 parameters allowing for diagnosis.
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
There is no easy fix for Sleep Apnea, the following can help reduce its effects: weight loss, avoidance of alcohol, sleep position and good sleep habits.
When these do not work other treatments are available:
Dental appliances (bite-blocks) have been shown to reduce Apneas in mild to moderate cases.
Pros: Non invasive, easily portable.
Cons: Only 50% effective, no trial period to see if they work, have to be purchased upfront, cost, adjustment period 4-12 weeks
Surgery: Not recommended by the College of Surgeons and Physicians due to failure rates and complications of surgery.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine:
This device is the gold standard for treatment. CPAP applies gentle air pressure through the nose or mouth preventing the soft tissues in the back of the throat from collapsing.
Pros: 100% effective when worn.
Cons: Getting used to the mask, pressure and cost.
Should you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from this disorder talk to you physician or contact IRS for more information or free testing 1-877-965-6204.
Independent Respiratory Services is a BC owned and operated full service respiratory company. We have been providing sleep apnea and home oxygen therapy to British Columbians since 1996.