Local cardiologist shares personal sleep apnea story and advice.
For several years, my wife complained about my increasingly heroic snoring
(yes, it’s a clinical term), which led to my side on the receiving
end of her elbow throughout the night. I also began to notice funny stares
by other flight passengers when I would doze off on a long airline flight.
When I finally gave in to my wife’s pleas to see a physician sleep
specialist, I was sent home with a monitor to evaluate my sleep pattern.
Diagnosis - sleep apnea.
I always thought sleep apnea only occurred in morbidly obese patients,
but it can affect people of all ages, races or sexes. Risk factors include
being a male, overweight, 40 years or older, large neck size, sinus problems
and deviated septum. And outside of snoring and sleep disruptions, the
symptoms are very broad, leaving many people undiagnosed:
- Excessive daytime drowsiness
- Depression, irritability
- Attention, concentration problems
- Sore throat or dry mouth when you wake
Physically, during sleep apnea the muscles in the back of the throat block
the airway, causing low blood oxygen levels. The body responds by releasing
adrenaline. When this happens over and over again, adrenaline levels remain
high, stressing the body and increasing your risk of high blood pressure,
heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Sleep apnea is a serious health condition, but it’s treatable. There
are lifestyle changes that can reduce the severity, such as losing weight,
avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking. When lifestyle changes alone don’t
work, treatment options include:
- CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask - provides a steady stream
of air to keep your airway open through the night
- Oral appliance – resembles a sports mouth guard and holds the tongue
in position so the airway cannot collapse
- Surgery (extreme cases) - removes the extra tissue in the throat that blocks
Sleep well & happy dreams!
Andrew J. Olinde, MD
Vascular Specialty Center
Phone: (225) 769-4493