How to Spot Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea represents a significant health risk, widely associated with diabetes, mood disorders and cardiovascular disease. I’ve written about apnea often in the space because new risk factors are forever surfacing. But one question I haven’t covered in much detail is how you can tell the difference between typical sleep patterns and true apnea.
Thankfully a recent Q&A in the New York Times covered the salient points for me. In response to a question about sleep apnea, Dr. Orfeu Marcello Buxton of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University offered this lucid explanation:
Symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing include excessive daytime sleepiness, choking or gasping during sleep and sometimes morning headaches because of low oxygen during sleep. In response to falling oxygen levels in the blood (and or rising carbon dioxide levels), a brain “arousal” lightens sleep and a gasp or deeper breathing takes in more air. Risk factors include having a greater than 17-inch neck size, obesity, being male and a family history of apnea. But it is possible to have none of these factors and have sleep-disordered breathing. Snoring is much more common than sleep-disordered breathing, and snoring doesn’t necessarily mean one has sleep-disordered breathing. But the cessation of breathing for more than 20 seconds during sleep is an indicator of sleep apnea. A diagnosis of sleep apnea involves a sleep test at a sleep clinic or in the home.
The only sure way to determine whether you are suffering with apnea is to enlist the help of another person. An exceptionally patient spouse or partner could do the trick, but spending the night in a good sleep clinic is the far more advisable route.
Sleep apnea is a curable condition. Many patients respond to positive airflow devices such as a CPAP, while others may experience improvement following a surgical procedure such as turbinate reduction surgery or nasal septoplasty. To learn more, contact my sinus surgery center here for some good options that can help you sleep soundly.