So, your significant other begs to be allowed to fall asleep first. You avoid camping or sharing a room with anyone because when you fall asleep, you’ve been told that you saw logs. You could have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, and is considered a serious disorder.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
Untreated sleep apnea may also be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, car accidents, underachievement at school in children and adolescents, and having to sleep on the couch…or elsewhere.
A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is needed to diagnose sleep apnea. This is a multiple-component test that electronically transmits and records specific physical activities while you sleep. The recordings are analyzed by a qualified sleep specialist to determine whether or not you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder. Most of the time, this study is done at a sleep disorder clinic or sleep lab.
If your sleep apnea is mild, you may be asked to:
- Lose weight
- Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills
- Change sleep positions to improve breathing
- Stop smoking. Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway, which may worsen both snoring and apnea.
- Avoid sleeping on your back
Sometimes sleep apnea is severe enough that other measures are needed. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, may be prescribed. This involves a mask that you wear over your mouth or nose. It’s hooked to a machine that blows air into your airway. This way your airway stays open, preventing you from snoring or holding your breath. Depending on the person, a dental device may be a better option, or even surgery, if an anatomical problem is causing the airway to be blocked.
Consider these questions:
- Are you a loud, habitual snorer?
- Do you feel tired and groggy on awakening?
- Are you often sleepy during waking hours and/or can you fall asleep quickly?
- Are you overweight (BMI > or = 35) and/or do you have a large neck (> or = to 16in)?
- Have you been observed to choke, gasp, or hold your breath during sleep?
If you or someone close to you answers “yes” (or plays you a recording of your snoring!) to any of the above questions, you should talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested for sleep apnea. ¡Salud!