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- Sandra Trop
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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is sleep apnea?

    According to the American Sleep Apnea Association:

    There are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed; of the three, obstructive is the most common. Despite the difference in the root cause of each type, in all three, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer.

    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

    Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Yet still because of the lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals, the vast majority remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences.

    Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues.

    Negative health effects of snoring

    Excerpt from Healthguide.org

    The most typical health problem snoring causes is loss of sleep for both the person snoring and his (or her) sleep partner. The snoring noise combined with tossing and turning often keep both people from sleeping soundly. Sleep deprivation has significant consequences: excessive sleepiness, irritability, and lack of productivity during the day, as well as negative health repercussions.

    People who snore chronically are often middle-aged and overweight, and snoring may indicate a more serious underlying medical problem.

    Epworth Sleepiness Scale

    University of Maryland Medical Center

    The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is used to determine the level of daytime sleepiness. A score of 10 or more is considered sleepy. A score of 18 or more is very sleepy. If you score 10 or more on this test, you should consider whether you are obtaining adequate sleep, need to improve your sleep hygiene and/or need to see a sleep specialist. These issues should be discussed with your personal physician.

    Use the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation:

    0 = would never doze or sleep.

    1 = slight chance of dozing or sleeping

    2 = moderate chance of dozing or sleeping

    3 = high chance of dozing or sleeping

    Print out this test, fill in your answers and see where you stand

    Untreated sleep apnea

    • Can increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
    • Can increase the risk for or worsen heart failure
    • Make irregular heartbeats more likely
    • Can increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents

    Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery, and/or breathing devices can successfully treat sleep apnea in many people.

    Sleep deprivation and how it affects your life

    Excerpt from Healthguide.org

    How do you know if you’re getting the sleep you need? Sleep deprivation occurs when you are not sleeping the right amount for your individual needs. Sometimes sleep deprivation is short term, like a college student pulling an all nighter. Chronic sleep deprivation often occurs in professions who work long hours, caregivers with multiple responsibilities, a concurrent sleep disorder or another disease that interferes with sleep. If you are falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, regularly need an alarm clock to wake up, or feel the need for frequent naps during the day, it is very likely you are sleep deprived.

    Other signs you may be suffering from sleep deprivation include:

    • difficulty waking up in the morning
    • poor performance in school, on the job, or in sports
    • increased clumsiness
    • difficulty making decisions
    • falling asleep during work or class
    • feeling especially moody or irritated

    Sleep deprivation can be dangerous not only to you but others, since it affects motor skills like driving. Chronic sleep deprivation is also thought to cause long term changes to the body, which contribute to increased risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease.