Very common yet rarely diagnosed, sleep apnea can have serious consequences when left untreated. “I had no idea that I stopped breathing in my sleep each night,” says Dale Snape, chairman of the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to getting the word out about sleep apnea.
“Yet the sleep study showed that I stopped breathing about 300 times during the night. I’m glad I found out I have sleep apnea; the diagnosis led me to a treatment which makes a word of difference.
People who have sleep apnea stop breathing in their sleep as their airway passage is obstructed, usually by tissue in the back of the throat. Each time breathing stops, the brain signals those with sleep pane to arouse briefly from sleep in order to resume breathing. As a result, sleep is constantly interrupted, leaving untreated apneics extremely tired. People with untreated sleep apnea are typically not aware of the awakenings and don’t realise why they are tired.
The consequences of untreated sleep pane include high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, reflux, nocturne, memory problems, feeling of depression morning headaches, weight gain, and impotency. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often associated with other medical conditions rather than sleep apnea.
Society may view reflux, for example, as a sign of only gastrointestinal disease. Patients may request an anti-depressant or anti-impotence medication when actually a request for a sleep study is warranted. Nocturia is often associated only with possible prostate problems or diabetes; fatigue may be seen only as a thyroid symptom. In fact, all of these complaints may be due to unrecognised sleep apnea.
“I had high blood pressure for years, which was tough to control even with medication. I had morning headaches almost every day, gained weight, and was up frequently at night to visit the bathroom,” says Dave Hargett, co-ordinator of the Elk Grove Village Illinois A.W.A.K.E. Group, a health awareness group for persons with sleep apnea. “I thought I was just getting old! And I didn’t really believe that I snored that much.
Was I ever wrong! It turned out that I had severe obstructive sleep apnea. Lucky for me that I was diagnosed over six years ago and am effectively treated. Now I have my life back.
Source: American Sleep Apnea Association