What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep condition in which a person’s sleep is interrupted due to repeatedly starting and stopping breathing through the night. This sleep disorder is caused by the airway being narrowed or closed, making it harder to breathe, resulting in a number of negative effects on the body. Those with sleep apnea can even wake up more than 30 times per hour, in severe cases, gasping for air.1 Sleep apnea is broken into three different categories and they vary in severity and symptoms. The 3 main types of sleep apnea are:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the throat muscles relax and cause the airway to narrow, blocking the flow of air that can get to the lungs.
- Central Sleep Apnea: This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain is not properly signaling the muscles to breathe. This type of sleep apnea usually indicates an underlying medical condition.
- Complex Sleep Apnea: This type of sleep apnea occurs when someone is first diagnosed with OSA but it gets worse and more severe.
How is it Diagnosed?
There are a number of ways sleep apnea can be diagnosed. Thanks to new advances in technology and telehealth services, getting tested and diagnosed for sleep apnea is easier than ever before. First, knowing the signs of sleep apnea is the most important. If you find you or your bed partner have any of the following symptoms, it is vital to your overall health to get tested right away:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up gasping for air or feeling like you are choking
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Sore throat or a dry mouth during the day
If any of these symptoms are prevalent frequently in your life, getting tested and diagnosed for sleep apnea is the next step. Here are some ways sleep apnea can be diagnosed.
A polysomnography is an in-lab study that evaluates a person’s sleep throughout the night. This type of test is taken in a laboratory, under careful watch, and monitors and evaluates breathing patterns, brain waves, heart and lung activity, blood oxygen levels, and more. In order to conduct a polysomnography, the person taking the sleep test will be connected to sensors and wires to properly record sleep data. Although this is a painless process, it may be uncomfortable to some as feelings of unfamiliarity and nervousness could arise.
At-Home Sleep Study
An at-home sleep study monitors all the same things as a polysomnography, but while a person is sleeping at home. Typically, there is a small sensor that is connected through a finger that transmits sleep data to a healthcare provider to determine results. This option is more comfortable and more affordable than other services available.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) endorsed the use of portable monitoring for qualified people. The results of a home sleep apnea test were researched and determined to be accurate. They also satisfy the AASM requirements to determine whether a patient has sleep apnea and how severe the condition is.2
What Happens if You Live with Sleep Apnea Undiagnosed?
Living with sleep apnea undiagnosed could become very dangerous as it is linked to other health issues. These can include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, increased risk of strokes, and more. People with undiagnosed sleep apnea do not get quality sleep and as a result, are fatigued and tired though out the day. Mood swings and feelings of depression can also occur, lowering your overall quality of life. Additionally, if sleep apnea is left undiagnosed for too long, it could even leave to death.
Treatment Options for Managing Sleep Apnea
After getting tested and diagnosed for sleep apnea, doctors will recommend a few different treatment options. These can be as simple as a few lifestyle changes or may be more complex like receiving CPAP therapy.
Lifestyle changes can include:
- Losing weight
- Eating healthier
- Exercising regularly
- Having a proper bedtime
CPAP therapy is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and it works by keeping the airway open through the night by delivering pressurized air to the airway. This results in a person breathing better and getting the proper amount of sleep they need to properly function throughout the day. CPAP therapy improves overall health and quality of life and is very beneficial to those who have sleep apnea.
It is very important to be aware of the symptoms of sleep apnea. Getting tested, diagnosed, and treated for sleep apnea positively affects your overall health and lifespan. Knowing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea will better you so that you do not live with this sleep condition undiagnosed, which could lead to other health problems.
By Chris Vasta is the Director of Operations at The CPAP Shop
Chris Vasta is the Director of Operations at The CPAP Shop. After nearly 20 years of working with sleep apnea equipment, Chris has a a deep understanding of the challenges in beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturer’s prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide previews on new releases.